Did the Propaganda Director Witness Murder?

In my previous post I showed technical evidence, based on acoustics, that places a shooter among the demonstrators near the place where the teenager was shot dead on July 5th, 2009, at Tegucigalpa Airport, Honduras. This is quite significant, since it was a pivotal event in the world media. It changed the focus in much of the world press from “Was it a military coup or not?” to “The military coupsters are shooting innocent unarmed civilian demonstrators!”

In my analysis, the technical evidence points to that the world press fell for a propaganda trick by Hugo Chávez. However, there is more.

Within one second of the gunshot from which I analyzed the echo in my last post, there was another shot. Unfortunately, the producer of the video, Cesar Silva, cut the scene a fraction of a second after that gun was fired. Nevertheless, we can analyze that part of the sound that is still present (below).

The soundtrack with three different time scales (sample numbers, 44100 samples per second). The top shows the explosion with the echos to the left, and the second explosion to the right. Dimmed part is from the next scene. Mid and bottom shows magnified portions.
The soundtrack with three different time scales (sample numbers, 44100 samples per second). The top shows the explosion with the echos to the left, and the second explosion to the right. Dimmed part is from the next scene. Mid and bottom shows magnified portions.

Note how suddenly the sound pressure level goes from background to full explosive sound. Compare it with the previous gun shot. Having determined that the distance to that was in the order of 30 m, we can deduce that the distance to this gun must have been significantly less. In other words, someone very close to the cameraman fired that gun. This opens the possibility that it was someone in his company.

Only seconds later Silva himself appears in the video (below), together with a group of people hiding behind the car. The location is some 10 to 20 m further south.

Cesar Ham, leader of the far left party UD, at 8 minutes 7 seconds into the video, apparently talking on radio. This appears to be the time when Manuel Zelaya was talking to TeleSur from the Venezuelan airplane above, which Chavez was watching on TV.
Cesar Silva, at 8 minutes 7 seconds into the video, apparently talking on radio. This appears to be the time when Manuel Zelaya was talking to TeleSur from the Venezuelan airplane above, which Chavez was watching on TV.

Still a few seconds later in the video, it is reported that the teenager was shot. Silva carried the victim, so the following scene is shot by someone else.

Cesar Ham and the cameraman carrying the 19-year old victim who died from a gunshot to his neck, ca 9:02 into the video.
Cesar Silva carrying the 19-year old victim who died from a gunshot to his neck, ca 9:02 into the video.

Obviously this raises questions as to what Silva saw of what happened. At the very least he is a potential witness.

Cesar Silva was Director of Communications in Zelaya’s Ministry of Interior and Justice (interview). Basically, that puts him at the heart of the propaganda machinery for promoting the illegal so-called “opinion poll,” that became Zelaya’s downfall.

I Accuse Hugo Chávez of Conspiracy to Murder

Already January 31st I presented the evidence, but since nobody seems to have noticed, I’ll present them again with a more direct headline. A video (see below) released by the “resistencia” itself, contains footage from outside the airport on July 5th, the day that Zelaya was allegedly trying to return by airplane. As I reported July 8th, Hugo Chavez had apparently planned for riots resulting in a martyr being created.

While the Zelaya-supporters accused the military of having shot a young man in the neck, my forensic analysis of the video tells a different story. Analyzing the spectral content of the sound of the shot, as well as the echoes in combination with the terrain and surrounding buildings (the images gave away the location), I was able to conclude that shots were fired in the field of view of the camera below.

Screen shot from 2 seconds before a shot is heard nearby, with a double echo.
Screenshot from 2 seconds before a shot is heard nearby in the video.

The young man was killed very close to that place, but the exact location is unknown, since the rioters moved the body before the police could secure the crime scene. Furthermore, it is impossible to know if one of the shots fired in the video was the one that killed him. But this is not relevant.

Based on the evidence we now have, we can conclude that someone was carrying a gun, firing it among the rioters. The 19-year old victim was hit in his neck, i.e., from behind, while he faced the airfield. The soldiers on the airfield were not armed with live ammunition (see air photo below for location).

The inferred location of the shooter based on the estimated location of the camera, and the echo paths, the longer of which is shown.
The inferred location of the shooter based on the estimated location of the camera, and the echo paths, the longer of which is shown.

We also have the photo evidence of Hugo Chávez, which revealed that he planned this. Although we cannot say who pulled the trigger, we can deduce that Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez planned the murder. His stated purpose – on the whiteboard – was to create a martyr, and unfortunately many of the bloggers in the world fell for the trick.

This is a time domain plot of the sound on the video with the inaudible echo (1) and the audible echo (2) indicated.
This is a time domain plot of the sound on the video. First comes the directly transmitted sound from the explosion, followed by an inaudible echo (1) and an audible echo (2). The x-scale shows sample number, with 44100 samples per second. The y-scale is sound pressure in arbitrary units.

Here is the propaganda video from which the above scene was taken (see this post for a comment on its other content):

Mob Violence in Nicaragua is a Coup d’État

A violent street mob in Nicaragua is trying to prevent the democratically elected Congress from convening in order to declare an action by the president illegal. The police is not stopping the mob violence.

This is the first step towards a coup d’état. The international community must take steps now to stop the erosion of democracy. The Organization of American States, OAS, has tools at its disposal for intervening. Failure to intervene now would be disastrous for the credibility of OAS; the little that is left after it assisted Honduras’s president Manuel Zelaya in his coup plans last year.

If the mob is not stopped, and the Congress is not able to carry out their duty, then the only tool left to prevent a coup d’état by the president is to use coup d’état-like methods against the president. As I have argued here that is defensible, but it will lead to the international community turning against the democratic institutions, instead defending the wannabe coupster Ortega.

As those who have followed the development in Honduras closely know, that is just what happened there last year. A mob headed by the president stole ballots that were in the custody of the court, which was trying to prevent a coup d’état. The international community should have taken forceful action against Zelaya at that point, but they failed. That was, as the kids say, the “epic fail” of the conflict.

My call to the international community is to take forceful action against Daniel Ortega’s government now:

-Regard this event as a full-blown attempt at a creeping coup d’état, because if you don’t, you will face another Epic Fail in Central America!

Beam me up, there is no intelligent life in USA

The so-called birthers in the US claim that president Barack Obama was not born in USA and thus cannot be president. That’s not what makes me want to be beamed up. It’s the democrat’s response that makes me think there is no intelligent life in USA.

The birthers’ argument is that since Obama has not shown a birth certificate from a US state (i.e., Hawaii), he is not a US citizen, and thus he is ineligible to be president according to the US Constitution, article 2, section 1. Just now Ed Schultz had a debate on MSNBC with one of those, and the only argument he made was that it had been shown that Obama was born on Hawaii.

But so what?

The US Constitution, article 2, section 1 says in the relevant part: “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

It does not mention a requirement to be born within the boundaries of the US, it just mentions being a natural born citizen. Any child born to a parent who is a US citizen is a natural born citizen of the US, but so far, I haven’t heard a single person making that self-evident argument on TV. That is why I doubt that there is intelligent life in this country.

The last provision, that the president must have lived at least 14 years in the country, clearly indicates that the drafters of the constitution envisioned that someone who had lived even the majority of his or her life abroad should be qualified. Although it is not explicit, it could indicate that they were having in mind children of USAmericans born abroad, who returned to their fatherland as adults.

Assume that the birthers’ interpretation had been right. That would mean that there would be two classes of natural born citizens; those with full citizenship rights, and those without. That is an entirely untenable position, from a Human Rights-perspective.

The ignorance of people in this country never ceases to amaze me. Beam me up!

What Legal Liabilities does Censorware have?

Censorware, or URL filtering software, prevents users from accessing certain internet domains. It is typically installed by an employer or parent to prevent the employees or children from accessing potentially harmful websites, including websites that decreases the productivity of the employees, or consumes too much bandwidth. It is also used by ISPs to manage their bandwidth.

But who are they accountable to? In other words, who can sue them?

Take the case of Lindorm, Inc. They manufacture the SediMeter, an instrument for measuring sedimentation, siltation, and erosion. One application is environmental monitoring of coral reefs, to make sure they are not harmed by sediment spill from nearby dredging or construction activities. Clients include universities, businesses, and government agencies.

Although it has been a business domain for at least 6 years, incredibly the URL lindorm.com is listed as an “adult” site by, e.g., URLfilterDB, and as “adult” and “porn” by blacklist.com (see image). Another handful of databases could also be checked online, and were accurate, typically listing Lindorm in a business category.

Even though this site prominently links to the Open Directory project, where lindorm.com is classified correctly, they have it classified as an adult and porn site.
Even though this site prominently links to the Open Directory project, where lindorm.com is classified correctly, they have it classified as an adult and porn site.

The very serious misclassification can have dire economical consequences for Lindorm, depending on how the information in these commercial databases was used. There are testimonies that it has prevented potential customers from viewing the website, and indications that it has also lead to filtering of emails, both outgoing and incoming. Although the reason is not known, a number of purchase orders sent by e-mail have disappeared en route.

It may be tempting to hold those who earn money on these libelous databases accountable. However, at least they offered a way to check the database’s accuracy online, and report errors. A big problem is that the majority of database providers (especially the large corporate ones) offer no way of checking the veracity of their information. Examples include Cisco and Websense. There should be a law that forced them to provide that possibility, given how errors on their parts might drive another company out of business.

It would be interesting to find out how this damage to third parties is handled by the law.

Update 2010-04-26: The response of Marcus Kool at URLfilterDB.com to my concerns that their mistakes can cause serious harm to other companies was: “hahaha!”

Springtime for Carmen on Miami smurf-opera

Carmen is one of the most popular operas in the world, and a few hours ago it was opening night in Miami for a new production. Except for the music and the song, it was a dissapointment.

The whole idea with opera is to appeal to emotions, and for that to happen the scenery on stage has to be believable. Of course it is fake, but it must have some semblance to the reality for it to be believable.

This production, though, was like the blue comic-strip smurf characters that can replace any word with the word “smurf,” in that a simple wood chair could symbolize anything: A rifle, arbitrary smuggle-goods; and even a chair. To make this clear the wall was covered with those chairs, too. In combination with the often blue light on the stage the association went to the smurfs.

The scene itself was white with black straight lines in random directions, and more of it in the perifery than near the center. Add some red movable raised pieces of scene, and that was basically it.

I was not the only one to think about the production “Springtime for Hitler” in “The Producers” by Woody Allen. Except, in the Hitler case they were so over the top that it became comedy. Here it was just travesty of opera.

The other thing that I noticed was how silent the music was. The only other stages I have had the pleasure to experience are the Opera in Stockholm, the Kongelige Teater in Copenhagen, and the Mariinsk Teatr in St Petersburg. As I remember it they all had a much more impressive orchestra sound. In Miami it was sometimes hard to even hear the performance – but maybe it is me who needs hearing aids. Or is there too much acoustic damping?

Opera is a fantastic art form, and the scenery is an important part of it. A cork-gun would be better as a rifle than a wooden chair. That would at least have revealed some level of respect for the art and for the audience.

The Communist Sedition in Honduras

Sedition (noun)
1. incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government.
2. any action, esp. in speech or writing, promoting such discontent or rebellion.

Last year, the elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was deposed after having tried to carry out a coup d’état, a so-called creeping coup, the end result of which would have been to overthrow the form of government. Just as his mentor Hugo Chávez has done in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.

When the democratic institutions of Honduras foiled the attempted coup d’état by Zelaya, his supporters – led by Chávez – successfully managed to plant their lie in the world media. According to their spin, the democratic institutions were the coupsters, and the coupster was an innocent victim.

Unfortunately, there is still not a single country that has stood up to this atrocious propaganda lie, and declared that they made a mistake; that the real coupster was Manuel Zelaya.

As a result, the forces that are attempting to overthrow the democratic regime in Honduras can use the world’s mistake to their advantage. They claim – wrongly, but who will argue with them when journalists are being murdered? – that the only way to “restore democracy” is to hold a constituting constitutional assembly; in other words, to overthrow the form of government -precisely the attempted act that got Zelaya deposed.

Thus, since the world is failing to recognize their error and support democracy, they are helping the rebels in overthrowing the legitimate, democratic government of a peaceful nation.

As an example of the sedition that is going on, totally unpunished and without much opposing voice, let me quote a countryman of mine who is living in Honduras and who writes for a communist newspaper in Sweden, Dick Emanuelsson: “La primera tarea por supuesto es seguir luchando y resistiendo y combatir los efectos y las consecuencias del golpe de estado. Y la tarea práctica y concreta política es la lucha por una Asamblea Constituyente” (the first task is of course to continue fighting and resisting the effects and consequences of the coup d’état. And the practical and concrete task is the fight for a constituting constitutional assembly).

This is pure demagoguery, of course, since nobody ever expresses what exactly is the reason for changing the constitution, or how their proposal for a constitution would differ from the present one. Furthermore it is sedition, as it amounts to advocating the overthrowing of the form of government. As I have reported on this blog in the past, Emanuelsson has previously advocated the use of force.

Personally I think it is a big mistake by the justice system not to prosecute people who, like Emanuelsson, publicly advocate the overthrowing of the form of government, especially with arms, and even more so when it is a politician who does it since that violates article 239 in the constitution. Hopefully they will react, because if they don’t, then any attempt at stopping it at crunch time will again be labeled a coup d’état. They have to establish an example now.

Too many in Honduras and abroad don’t know that a Constituyente is illegal, unconstitutional, and that it can only come about through violence – as in Bolivia, where a hasty debate in the middle of a 48 hour gun-battle didn’t even cover all aspects before the voted in fear of their lives.

The number one propaganda lie that they are using is that the Constituyente is the only democratic tool available, while in reality the Constituyente is illegal, undemocratic, unconstitutional, and the true objective reasonably cannot be anything else than to introduce dictatorship.

Although the government is doing their best to calm the situation, Honduras continues to be hurt economically by the failure of the international community to correct their initial mistake. Who would invest in a country where a small but violent group is threatening to use arms to overthrow the form of government, and is supported by certain leading politicians – without the justice system interfering?

This group refuses to recognize the government, in an open act of sedition, because they believe that their best chance to get support from the international community is not to recognize the government, not to seek peace, but to seek rebellion. That is why they falsely accuse the government of human rights abuses – it is a deliberate strategy of that group, led by Chávez. But who is telling the world of the suffering of the silent majority under the terror of this extreme leftist group?

Resistencia and Democracy in Honduras

There is in Honduras a grouping calling itself “the national popular resistance front against the coup d’état”, FNRP. Before scrutinizing their agenda I just have to comment on their name.

As is now known, the coup d’état was perpetrated by Manuel Zelaya, but it was stopped by the checks and balances, the democratic institutions of Honduras. However, it is not that coup d’état which this organization is referring to in their name. They are referring to the action to stop the coup d’état, when they say “coup d’état.” However, according to my analysis, it was a coup only in form, not in substance, as neither the constitution was changed, nor any president was put in place who would not have been president if all the formalities of the constitution had been followed to the letter.

One may describe the events with this similitude: Zelaya was in his office, and committed a crime. The court asked the military to fetch him. To prevent him from returning they booby-trapped the door. Micheletti was sworn to take care of business in Zelaya’s absence. He climbed in through a window, since the door was booby-trapped. Seeing this, the police was called, thinking he was a burglar. This is a relevant similitude, since the actions of the military prevented Micheletti from being made interim president in the appropriate way, but he still had an obligation to run the office in Zelaya’s absence – and Zelaya was not coming back since all he faced was his immediate arrest.

Nevertheless, FNRP considers Micheletti’s “climbing in through the window” to be a coup, and they consider the attempted overthrowing of the form of government by Zelaya not to be a crime.

What is the argument of FNRP?

Their argument is that the power of the Congress and the President emanates from the people, and is only delegated to them. Therefore, they argue, the people can take that power back. They claim that they, FNRP, is the true representative of the people, not Congress, nor the President. They argue that their self-appointed organization is more democratic than the will of the people as expressed in democratic elections every 4 years, latest on November 29, 2009.

Furthermore, they claim that the appointment of Roberto Micheletti as interim president on June 28, 2009, was a coup d’état, and as a result of that, they argue, the Constitution has ceased to be in force. Therefore, they continue, since there is no Constitution of the land, it is appropriate to hold a Constituting Constitutional Assembly in order to write a new Constitution from scratch.

For good measure, Zelaya is also asking the Inter-American Human Rights Commission of OAS to declare the replacement of Zelaya a coup d’état, and to order Honduras to hold a Constituting Constitutional Assembly.

What is the plan of FNRP?

They plan to create a new Constitution themselves. Regarding a planning meeting held March 12 to 14, English-language blogs write, “After a serious debate the various sections of a new constitution were laid out.”

Not able to find any such document online, I proceeded to seek information (through a mutual acquaintance) from Congresswoman Carolina Echeverría, from Depto Gracias a Dios. She was one of those liberal party congressmen and -women who objected to the way in which Micheletti was appointed interim president on June 28, and she is, I’ve been told, one of the top leaders of FNRP. I appreciate that she was willing to share some information with me for use on this modest blog.

According to Echeverría, a Constituting Constitutional Assembly is being prepared for June 28, 2010. A new constitution is being drafted by a working group. However, the process is not open. The general public does not have insight into what it may contain, nor can they contribute with input.

However, another source with a good connection network in FNRP has told me that they are at present discussing prolonging the maximum presidential period from 4 years at present, to somewhere between 8 and 16 years. This would entail to change one of the unchangeable paragraphs that are “cut in stone.”

What can FNRP hope to accomplish?

If the debate and the meeting are not open, then the whole process becomes a special-interest partisan effort that will have no impact on mainstream Honduras. The only way in which it can become relevant is if they force it on the rest of the population. Since this is unconstitutional, there are only three ways in which it can happen: A coup d’état, a revolution, and a foreign military intervention (cf. previous post).

I think we can rule out revolution and war, which leaves only the coup alternative. Is there any reason to suspect that the present president might attempt the same kind of coup as Zelaya did?

Unfortunately, the answer is not “no.” Pepe Lobo was sent by the Honduran communist party to study in the Soviet Union. He denies it, but a person I interviewed assured me he has talked to three persons who studied together with Lobo in Moscow, and although two of them are now dead, the third is still alive and can bear witness about it. What makes this suspicious is not that he studied there for a few months, but that he is assuring that he didn’t.

Furthermore, Lobo was initially positive to Zelaya’s plans, until the wind turned against it. Finally, an FNRP-connected source has told me that the party of Lobo, the Nacionalistas, are participating in the drafting of the new constitution.

Here I should point out, that if any elected politician in any way proposes or facilitates changing the presidential term limit, they would immediately lose their elected office, and be ineligible to hold any elected office for 10 years, according to §239 in the Honduran Constitution.

Therefore, they have every reason to hide their participation in this process. The Nacionalistas don’t just have the presidency at present, they also have a majority in Congress. The only branch they don’t control is the Supreme Court.

A coup scenario

Assuming that the above is correct, what may happen in the worst case scenario is that the Nacionalistas decide to vote in Congress on a motion that simply recognizes that the present Constitution is null and void (by being violated by the alleged coup last year, that they themselves voted for incidentally, but what says they have to be logical and consistent?). The next step would then be to vote to recognize the legitimacy of the Constituting Constitutional Assembly and the new constitution. That constitution would obviously throw out the present Supreme Court, since that is the only institution capable of stopping such a coup.

If the military obeys the president (who has replaced the entire leadership of that organization since the coup attempt by Zelaya), then this might succeed.

Is this likely to happen? No. But if it happens, it would be a big setback for democracy and the rule of law.

How can the threat be diminished?

First we have the legal means. Already now, any elected official that in any way, shape, or form violates §239, should be indicted and separated from office awaiting trial. Since contributing to drafting this new constitution would be a violation of §239 (and more), this may be the reason why the process is not open to the public. However, even advocating the holding of a Constituting Constitutional Assembly may violate that paragraph. The problem with this method is that it may backfire seriously in the field of public relations.

Therefore, I would advocate primarily using political means. Members of Congress who are opposed to constitutional coups can deflate any popular support the FNRP might have, by taking the initiative in the efforts to (legally) reform the constitution. Indeed, Congress itself can start an open and transparent process with citizen participation. It could take the form of a website for debating the need for, and proposals for, constitutional reform. Since only Congress is authorized to change the Constitution, it only makes sense if Congress itself does this. Of course, they should use experts in designing the user interface, but staff or representatives should engage in the debate and the wording of proposals.

Although there are some unchangeable paragraphs in Honduras’s Constitution, I don’t understand how those points in any way could prevent progress. There can be no democratic reason to write a new Constitution, as reforming the old one is perfectly adequate. Anyone who argues otherwise must be suspected to be an anti-democrat.

If Congress takes the initiative, the undemocratic forces can be marginalized so they no longer can prey on popular discontent. Undemocratic forces on both extremes need to be separated from the mainstream, so a civil debate can take place within the mainstream.

Personally I am quite optimistic about the possibility to do this in Honduras. I believe that many of those who most loudly claim that it is impossible, are the very extremists who we must marginalize. Those are not the ones to listen to, they should be turned off – or just switch channel.

Defending a Coup d’État, Can You?

My argument is based on self defense. Just like we don’t call a person who kills his would-be murderor a murderor, we should not call someone a coupster for using the methods of a coup d’état to foil a coup d’état, in order to save the State in an emergency.

A source of confusion, and an origin of different interpretations of the legality of the events in Honduras in June, 2009, is the fact that the term coup d’état (golpe de Estado) is widely used but not defined. I have some news to report on the ongoing activities of the self-denominated “resistance against the coup d’état,” but before doing that it is convenient to analyze what the term coup d’état really means. Of course, this is strictly speaking redundant since there are legal terms for all these crimes, but since coup is so widely used in common speech it may still serve a purpose.

The Human Rights Foundation has tabulated a number of definitions in their report The Facts and the Law behind the democratic crisis of Honduras, 2009 : A Constitutional and International Democracy Law Analysis (March, 2010; pp. 96-98). In my humble opinion, they are virtually all wrong, though, in that they consider that in order to be a coup, the victim must be the chief executive. Parenthetically they do not even consider the possibility of a parliamentarian system with a separate head of state and head of government: which of the two is the chief executive for the purpose of the coup? Only one source listed any branch of government as the victim.

So is Mel Zelaya a victim? Not if you ask me. He was just a servant to his people, elected to work for them. He can impossibly be a victim in his capacity as president (only as an individual person whose human rights were violated, e.g., by being arrested without due process). The president is an abstract function, the holder of an office, not a person of flesh and blood. Make this mental experiment: Assume that we could develop a robot that could fill the role of president, and that a coup was made against it. Would that robot then have human rights? Of course not. We have to separate person from office. There is a dangerous and strong tendency today (at least in the U.S.) not to do so. That path leads to monarchy. Do we want to go there?

Therefore we must conclude that the victim of a coup is not a single person, or even a group of persons. Literally, the victim of a coup d’état is the state. This is exactly what coup d’état means: A strike against the state (golpe de estado). And what defines the state? –The Constitution.

Having defined that a coup d’état is directed against the constitution, and neither against an individual nor against an office, things get clearer conceptually. Unless the following events result from a revolution or a foreign occupation (in which case they are typically declared null and void by the constitution anyway), they would qualify as a coup d’état:

  1. Changing the constitution by means not allowed for by the constitution
  2. Someone occupying the top level of any independent branch of government who should not hold that position if the constitution had been followed

It seems to me that these two points capture all cases. As to manner of execution, the use of either force, coercion, or fraud may be part of a coup, but at the very least a swiftness that overruns the checks and balances and puts them before a fait accompli. Coups are a threat to all democratic organizations, not just states. It is to avoid coups that certain meeting rules exist, such as stipulating that for a decision to be valid all participants must have been informed a certain time in advance, and that no decision can be taken on an item not on the distributed agenda.

The ways a constitution can legally be changed are:

  1. By any means explicitly allowed for in the constitution itself, or
  2. the state fails to the point where it ceases to exist, why a constituting assembly is held to re-establish it.

It should be noted that point 2 refers to cases where there are no legitimate office-holders, and no constitutional way to re-populate the offices.

Some of the unconstitutional ways to change a constitution are:

  1. The constitution is overthrown by an insurrection (popularly known as a revolution),
  2. the constitution is changed while under foreign occupation after a war, and
  3. it is altered by the sitting government in ways not expressly allowed for by the constitution itself.

Point 3 would be an autogolpe, or self-coup, but a self-coup could also be to violate the constitution by sitting beyond term limits, without formally changing it. Points 1 and 2 are typically explicitly illegal in mature constitutions.

If we look at Latin America in recent years, several countries have gone around the presidential term limit by first changing the constitution. As long as this change is permissible, it is legal, but if the change was illegal then the old constitution would still be the valid one, and a coup d’état would have occurred.

Applied to Honduras

If we apply this to the Honduran political crisis of 2009, we see that then-president Manuel Zelaya overtly tried to bring about a constituting constitutional assembly, knowing full well that it was unconstitutional. He was thus attempting to commit a coup d’état, but his plans were foiled.  Manuel Zelaya was the coupster in Honduras June 28, 2009.

The crucial days were from June 24. Until then he had (or he believed he had) the support of the military for implementing the unconstitutional national vote that he had labeled a poll. However, June 24 the military had run out of rope; they had to inform the president that they were unable to obey since their orders were illegal.

Until June 24th Zelaya had been attempting to steamroll the other branches of government by using the threat of military force. In fact, he had started threatening force already to try to stack the Supreme Court early in the year, but backed down in the face-off with Micheletti, then the president of Congress. This was most fortunate indeed, since if Zelaya had succeeded, there might have been no legal way to stop his coup.

As things developed, the Supreme Court put legal pressure on the military, and that way they were able to remove Zelaya’s ability to use the threat of force in his coup plans. Incidentally, the new president, Lobo, has now removed the chief justice who stopped Zelaya’s coup.

While Zelaya tried to change the constitution illegally (and he openly admits to his plans, although he doesn’t call his attempted coup a coup), Micheletti has been accused of having come to power in a way not allowed for by the constitution, in a “military coup d’état.” As I linked to in the previous entry, although the events and formalities were those of a military coup, followed by an unconstitutional change of president by Congress (i.e., an impeachment coup), followed by a tacit approval by the Supreme Court, the HRF report concludes that the exact same thing could have been accomplished completely legally and constitutionally.

If all actors had done their duty and dealt with the coupsters according to the law, the result would have been the same: Micheletti would have become interim president.

If we accept the legal analysis of HRF’s report, by their definition this was a coup because of the manner in which Micheletti was appointed. However, this is just a formality. If the democratic institutions had corrected their errors, Micheletti would still have become the interim president. It’s a coup in form, not in substance. With my definition above, if the Supreme Court corrects themselves, there will have been no coup since the definition focuses on substance, not form. (Congress’s report says that the appointment was constitutional and thus no coup at all.)

So why the error in form when it was not necessary, just harmful to the country?

There was surely a degree of panic. Their main ally, the U.S., had seemingly abandoned them and thrown their support behind the coupster, who in turn was a front man for Chávez, an ally of Castro.

There was also uncertainty about who could be trusted. If neither the OAS nor the U.S. could be trusted, then who?

Time was running out. At 6 AM on June 28th the illegal poll would start. It was expected that Zelaya, knowing that time was working against his coup plans, would jump a couple of steps and appoint the Constituyente immediately after the close of the poll – and that the result of the poll was pre-determined. This was later confirmed when fake poll results were found. Furthermore, inside sources have told me that Zelaya planned to appoint Patricia Rodas to arrange the constituting assembly, and that she would return the favor by appointing Zelaya as the Constituyente – in other words, a chief executive that is above all laws.

Does this sound absurd? Well, read websites reporting on the activities of the self-denominated resistance movement. They argue that this is legal. They don’t see any illegality in it. People I have talked to in Honduras who support the “resistencia” have completely swallowed the rhetoric from Radio Globo and others, this new-speak. They fail to recognize that it is demagoguery as old as democracy itself, used already by the old Greeks whenever a tyrant conspired to take over a democracy with the support of the poorly educated people, a mob turned against their own self-interest.

Returning to the events June 24 to 28, the military had opposed Zelaya. Given how they had taken a public stand, failure was not an option. In combination with the uncertainty of who the enemy was (wolves in sheep’s clothing, corrupt officials, and the risk of foreign armed infiltrators), it is understandable that they trusted nobody but themselves with making sure Zelaya could not exert influence in Honduras – which surely is why they exiled him.

From their point of view their mission was to defend the State against a coup d’état by their own commander in chief. This was not a situation of normal police work; this was an existential threat to the State. Therefore I think the decision of the Supreme Court to free the military leadership of responsibility for having sent Zelaya abroad instead of to jail was correct. If the military had followed orders and arrested him, there was a real risk that the coup d’état would have succeeded, given the powerful friends that Zelaya appeared to have (not primarily Chávez, but OAS and USA), who could quite likely have used their influence to free him.

The impeachment coup that HRF concludes that Congress committed has to be seen in the same vein. In the face of an imminent threat (including a military threat by Venezuela), it was imperative that an interim president immediately take control over the government, so that the State could defend itself. With Zelaya in Costa Rica the Supreme Court could not follow procedure in the criminal case against him. This, I presume, created a situation in which ad hoc solutions were taken without much contemplation over the consequences. Bringing up the letter that Zelaya presumably wrote June 25 when an attempt was made to make him resign, is a prime example of an ad hoc solution that back-fired.

Like Javier El-Hage, the author of the HRF report, I used to think that a coup is never justified. However, the case can be argued. Consider murder. Shooting someone in self-defense as a last resort is allowed in every jurisdiction I am aware of. The same standard has to be applied to coup d’états. We have to allow a coup d’état in order to stop a coup d’état, if the threat is imminent and there is no other realistic defense.

I never thought I’d ever say this, but yes, I have concluded that a coup can be defended if done in defense of the State against a hostile coup. This was the case in Honduras; the military on the face of it committed a coup, and according to the HRF report, Congress then committed an impeachment coup, but the objective in both cases was only to defend the Constitution, and nothing they did resulted in anything but making sure that the order of succession was honored, and that the Constitution remained in force.

How can anyone object to that?

PS. As I stated initially this is really of academic interest only, since coup is not a legal term. The legal violations that allegedly were carried out on June 28th in defense of democracy must be weighed against the context of the situation. Also, if neither the constitution was changed (criterion 1 above), nor any office-holder was appointed contrary to the constitution (criterion 2), can it then really be said to have been a coup, regardless of formalities?

Published 2010-04-20 16:40, last edited 2010-04-22 21:00.

Honduras Could Legally Depose Zelaya

We are now in the 9th month since president Manuel “Mel” Zelaya was deposed, the 5th month since the general elections were held under interim president Roberto Micheletti, and the 3rd month of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo’s presidency. The deposing of Zelaya was condemned as a coup d’état by the UN General Assembly. It never reached the Security Council since it was not considered a threat to peace, but it was widely considered a threat to democracy, with some notable exceptions.

But where does it stand now?

The most exhaustive legal analysis so far is perhaps the report from Human Rights Foundation, The Facts and the Law behind the democratic crisis of Honduras, 2009 : A Constitutional and International Democracy Law Analysis (March, 2010). It is interesting to read the description of the facts, which with absolute clarity indicate how Zelaya was carrying out an autogolpe, a coup d’état against his own Constitution, with the informed consent of Insulza, who was and remains the secretary general of OAS. Still, the authors of the report, in the executive summary, stick to the politically correct terminology to call it a coup, even though they conclude that the Supreme Court had the authority to depose Zelaya based on what he had done.

If both sides of the argument are right, then there is a loophole in democracy law big enough for a South American caudillo to ride through at full gallop. This loophole has already been galloped through by Chavez, Morales, and Correa, but Honduras stopped Zelaya with a determination that has never before been seen in cases like this.

A key finding in the report was that rather than safeguarding democracy in Honduras, OAS and Insulza were agents for the would-be golpista Manuel Zelaya. They stopped just short of calling Zelaya golpista; a label they don’t give anyone for that matter.

The authors of the report did not use non-public statements or similar inside information. However, I have consistent information from several persons who were very close to Zelaya and his plans, and there is no doubt that he was planning a coup d’état on June 28th – just like the president of the Supreme Court told Insulza according to the report, and in agreement with what Zelaya’s representative told OAS on June 26 about Zelaya’s overt plans to overthrow the form of government.

The legal analysis is probably correct, but it falls short of recognizing the state of acute emergency, a condition that materially changes the analysis. It also fails to take into account the diplomatic situation, with not just OAS but also USA being on the side of Zelaya’s autogolpe. However, these conditions cannot be deduced from public information.

The Truth Commission is still needed, for that very reason. It can consider also non-public information, and even state secrets. It has now been formed; its report is expected in 8 months.

The HRF report concludes that the Supreme Court had the opportunity and the legal right to separate Zelaya from office already on June 26, but didn’t do so. Instead they mangled the legal process. Incompetence? Or something more nefarious?

My sources tell me that the original plan was to have Zelaya arrested based on the June 25 indictment, but that the plans were stopped when USA declared that it would not recognize any government resulting from such an action. Senator Kerry created this policy, Obama made it his, and ambassador Hugo Llorens conveyed it (cf. note 1 also).

Again, Human Rights Foundation writes that it would have been perfectly legal and constitutional for Honduras’s Supreme Court to have Zelaya arrested and removed from office June 26th.

And again, it was president Obama – and president Obama alone – who made sure that did not happen.

So here we are. Insulza supporting Zelaya’s autogolpe, and Obama making sure that the constitutional means for stopping the coup are not put in place. Until Honduras on June 28th says “full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes,” in essence.

Micheletti knew that he would never be recognized, but he also knew that he had no choice. Quite possibly they even knew that it was immaterial if they deposed of Zelaya legally or in a coup, as they would not be recognized in either case. That is what I read into this report, in combination with what I have learned from other sources.


There seems to be a factual error in the report. [Correction 2010-04-19: There is no error, they reported the event but they did not have access to the supporting documents that I linked to below, and which I posted on this blog July 8th]. The error is in the events of Zelaya’s storming of the air force base and seizing the ballots that had been impounded by the court. It was thus a violent attack on a coequal branch of government, and probably the most obvious crime that Zelaya carried out while president.

The report mentions the storming on page 43 and dates it June 25th. On page 46 it is mentioned that the ballots and other material that they stole had been impounded by the Court, in a document that they claim was dated June 26, and made public June 28. Here are two documents seemingly relating to this act: Document from the Tribunal Supremo Electoral issued 2009-06-25 10:00 and received by the Administrative Court 2009-06-26, and a related act indicating that the order had been complied with, dated 2009-06-25 12:45.

If the material was stolen, why impound it; and if the documents are forgeries made after the fact, why write the wrong date? The only logical explanation is that the ballots were impounded before they were stolen. Perhaps the explanation of this seeming inconsistency is that the report is talking about a later order of destruction, and that it totally has missed the two documents I linked to above. [Correction: The report mentioned both the above first order but without supporting documents, and the later destruction order.]

The act of Congress is mentioned and found wanting. Others, such as the Library of Congress in the US, have found that it was legal. That report has been debated extensively in comments also on this blog. I am no legal scholar, but my feeling is that this report from HRF is more stringent and clear, and that its description agrees better with what we – at least in Scandinavia – would expect from a legal or parliamentarian procedure. The act of Congress can not easily be defended based on law alone. Only if one considers the existential threat that the state of Honduras was under that day can one justify it. Recall that OAS – an organization created to defend democracy – was actively involved in carrying out a coup d’état in Honduras, and Congress knew this full well. They most certainly felt that they had no choice but to act swiftly and decisively to take over the reigns of the republic.

The report concludes that Congress did not have the right to replace Zelaya with Micheletti. Only the Supreme Court could depose Zelaya. In the analysis of the Court’s actions, the report concludes on page 75 that the indictment of June 25 had a formal fault, in that the Attorney General had not argued that Zelaya had refused to obey a writ of summons. However, the authors may not be aware that Zelaya publicly taunted the justice system, saying something to the effect of “let them come and arrest me.” It was thus public knowledge that he would not obey a writ, to appear without being arrested. The criticism of the court’s issuance of the arrest warrant is entirely on formal grounds; the report does not dispute that there was reason to arrest Zelaya – it was just not justified in the correct legal way in the decision.

The criticism of justice Valle’s arrest order is of the same kind, omitted details that may have been completely redundant and self-evident for all involved. This can be good advice for the next time, but cannot be grounds for declaring the procedure flawed. It’s just details, and they don’t detract from the conclusion that the legal proceeding was on track, and that Zelaya could have been jailed if he had been brought to court instead of to Costa Rica. In fact, the report concludes that had he not been exiled, he would most likely have been suspended from office awaiting trial – which would have meant that Roberto Micheletti would have become the interim president, completely legally and constitutionally, no debate.

Of course, there was also the problem with issuing the arrest warrant to the military instead of to the police. The reasoning is not documented other than saying that the police has a “conflict of interest”, but it is contrary to the law. I can only guess that it has to do with individuals in command position who were loyal to Zelaya, not to the court.

International Procedures

Leaving the NGO report and looking at real legal cases, Zelaya and his supporters wanted to get the International Criminal Court to investigate the matter. Based on the intelligence I have gathered, I believe that they have been active for a number of months in gathering information in order to determine if there is any reason for them to start an investigation, but that they most likely have decided not to get involved.

Perhaps an important factor in that decision was that Zelaya and Co. also reported Honduras to the CIDH, with the Spanish acronym (Comision Interamericano de Derechos Humanos, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission). Zelaya wants CIDH to find Honduras’s democratic institutions guilty of committing a coup d’état against him, and to order the nation to hold a Constituting Constitutional Assembly. The flip side is of course that CIDH can find that there is no case against Honduras, which would finally give them the international legal opinion of support that they wanted.

Addendum 2010-04-19

1) Mary O’Grady writes 2010-04-19 that 12 days ago US ambassador Hugo Llorens hosted a dinner party in his residence for half a dozen of president Lobo’s cabinet members. Also invited was Fulton Armstrong, who works for senator Kerry, and who is infamous for having worked at the National Intelligence Council with Ana Belen Montes, “the highest ranking Cuban spy ever to penetrate the Pentagon.”

2) The HRF report sharply criticizes OAS for its part in the crisis. Not only did they fail to act to stop the erosion of democracy under Zelaya, but they actively facilitated it, led by Insulza who is repeatedly portrayed as disingenuous. However, they also conclude that the events on June 28 was a military coup d’état, an impeachment coup d’état (when Congress unconstitutionally replaced Zelaya with Micheletti), and that the Supreme Court unconstitutionally condoned these coups rather than protecting the rule of law. Although this description might be factually correct on some level, the description can also be seen as disingenuous as it disregards not only political and military realities, but also, and crucially, intent and effect.

The HRF criticism is focused on that they did not follow correct procedure in safeguarding democracy. They acknowledge that the Supreme Court legally could have deposed Zelaya, and that Micheletti then would have become the constitutional interim president. Thus, the degree of harm that the errors of implementation caused was relatively minor, at the end of the day, but HRF does not seem to acknowledge this as a mitigating circumstance.

They are right, though, in pointing out how Insulza should and could have acted instead, engaging Congress and the Supreme Court in finding a democratic and constitutional solution. By noon June 28th such a solution was still very much within reach, and it was only Insulza’s disingenuous actions that prevented a harmonious solution. Still, it is never too late to correct some of the mistakes made, especially by the court. I have much less hope for OAS, as that organization now clearly has established itself as an enemy of democracy.