The World has Sown a Dragon-Seed of Military Coup

The irresponsible actions of the international community has set back the agenda of Human Rights by decades, and significantly increased the risk for military coups with all the classical connotations: murders of opponents, disappearances, and violations of people’s fundamental rights, to destroy an opposition that is perceived as a threat to the liberal democracy. The place where this was done was Honduras, and the time was the last 12 months.

The organization Union Civica Democratica, UCD, in Honduras is now getting active again after a time of relative obscurity. UCD was created just about a year ago, to protest the intent of self-coup that Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was carrying out. They organized mass demonstrations with participants wearing white shirts. They are thus the essence of the White side in Honduras’s recent politics, with the rebels supporting the efforts to overthrow the constitution being the Red side.

Why do the Whites get active again now? There is one obvious reason: to help build a better society, and one less obvious: to keep defending the constitution against a threat that – remarkably – is still there.

For those of you who mostly follow leftist media this may require a bit of explanation, since the story you have been fed is that there was a “military coup” in Honduras June 28, 2009, at which Roberto Micheletti was made president; and that this was followed by illegitimate elections on November 29, at which Porfirio Lobo was elected president to take office on January 27 this year. This is the story promoted by a group of communist-aligned countries in Latin America, but it has gained international traction since no country has challenged it officially. Except Honduras, of course.

These friends of Castro, Chavez, Correa, Ortega, and Morales – all having gained or perpetuated their rule through unconstitutional means – are further alleging that the Lobo administration is not legitimate, since he was elected during a “military coup regime”, and therefore the Organization for American States (OAS, or OEA in Spanish) is refusing to let Honduras back in. They claim that the alleged military regime perpetrated widespread violations of Human Rights, allegations that are very much over the top, apparently counting on that the world media will think “no smoke without fire” – and they have. Even though they have only swallowed a minute fraction of the allegations, it has been enough to give their readers the image of a brutal military dictatorship. Nothing could be further from the truth, however.

The crimes of then-president Zelaya were dealt with extensively in court, and he was convicted repeatedly before a warrant for his arrest was issued. His violations of the constitution were grave enough to constitute high treason. The Supreme Court had every right to order the military to arrest him, as they did. Roberto Micheletti was next in the succession line to replace him, as he did.

On June 28, 2009, Honduras averted a coup that was being carried out by Zelaya, and saved its constitution by replacing him with Micheletti. The continued democratic Republic of Honduras did not change – it was the world around it that changed by condemning Honduras in the United Nations, and cutting off diplomatic relations to it. This gave encouragement to the communist rebels, who until Zelaya started using their rhetoric in his demagoguery in 2008, and adopted their agenda of overthrowing the constitution, had been an insignificant fringe group. They also got multi-million dollar funding from abroad, and many were pressured to get active in the rebel movement (for instance, Cuba used the threat of withholding education scholarships to pressure Honduran students on the island to become organizers of anti-government rebel activities).

While the rebels carried out widespread sabotage, causing multi-million dollar damage and even murdering people with bus bombs, the government stuck to the principles of human rights. Let it be said that Honduras has a less then perfect record, pretty abysmal actually, when it comes to the performance of the police and the justice system. Of course there were bad things done – you cannot change a poorly operating system overnight! These errors were reported oversees as evidence of repression, while in reality the interim government continued the work of trying to improve the standards of the police (and military, since they in Honduras are used to help the police, as stipulated in the constitution).

As far as I can judge, the Micheletti administration did their best to respect Human Rights and the norms of democracy.

They did this against a rather strong undercurrent in Honduras that believes that this method does not work; that the only thing that works is the methods of the early 1980’s: disappearances, terror, eliminations, dismantling of the rebel side by slowly and gradually picking off people in a seemingly random fashion until nobody is left who dares to pick up the stick.

Now think about it. When a constitutional regime is accused of being a military coup-facade, then what message does it send? When the international community (including the shameless Human Rights-organizations, with only one exception) accuse the government who tries to fight this culture of perpetrating it, then what message does it send?

What message does it send to be ungrateful to efforts to safeguard human rights? It sends the message that there is no point in trying to play by the rules of democracy and human rights.

Those who adhere to the old-school ideas of the hard-line approach have now got a much better argument. They can say, “we tried to follow their soft method, and look what it accomplished? Nothing!”

But I am getting ahead of myself now. I first have to update you on the situation in Honduras. President Lobo is so eager to get the recognition from the “international community”, which really means the OAS, which in turn means that he needs the support of a handful of communist-affiliated countries in Latin America, that he is prepared to sell out his country’s sovereignty for a plate of lentil soup. And not just that, pressure is being put on the democratic institutions of Honduras to violate their constitutional duties to accommodate the whims of those communist-affiliated countries.

Today the Supreme Court has been convened, says UCD, to try to reinstate justices who were dismissed for violating the laws, and to discuss dropping the legal cases against Zelaya. They try to do this today because some regular justices who are against these acts are unavailable, so their substitutes can rule differently. It is done under intense international pressure – including, I have heard, by the United States. Moreover, Lobo is talking about holding the same constituting constitutional assembly for which Zelaya was prosecuted.

In other words, the threat to democracy, the constitution, and the rule of law, appears to persist. Different actors have learned different lessons from the past year.

Chavez and his ALBA group of countries have drawn the conclusion that their communist strategy cannot be stopped.

The majority of Hondurans have drawn the conclusion that Chavez-style coups will not be tolerated in their country.

This, unfortunately, leads us right into the arms of a new confrontation. But this time, the right-wingers may have learned also a second lesson: the international community does not care if they follow the human rights rules or not; if they carry out a military coup or do a constitutional succession – the end result will be the same.

The danger of this precedent is thus that there will be a new attempt at overthrowing the form of government in Honduras, and that next time there will be no holding back of the violence in stopping that coup attempt. The risk is that the next time it will be a bloody military operation, as in a classic military coup, and that tens if not hundreds of activists will be murdered in it.

It would be a sad day indeed if that was to happen. That is why I implore the international community to stand up for the democratic republic of Honduras, to support its democratic institutions as they strive to uphold the law, and to not stand idly by when it is being attacked again. The time to engage in diplomacy is NOW. Don’t let it get out of hands a second time!

Orwellian new-speak dictionary for Honduras

Since June 28, 2009, the world has engaged in Orwellian new-speak in reporting on Honduras. As this is on-going and seems to be here to stay, I figure it may be appropriate to start writing a dictionary for those of us who prefer to know what they are talking about in the news. So here goes, first the new-speak word, then the translation in normal language.

Constitutional president: Coupster.

Coup d’état: Action to stop a coup d’état.

Coupster: Constitutional interim president.

Resistance: Rebels, who support the coupster.

Military regime: The democratic institutions that uphold the constitution.

As you see, it is slightly confusing to try to keep in mind what words really mean when they are notoriously used in the opposite sense of their true meaning. Just like George Orwell wrote in 1984, that is why new-speak exists.

OAS continues to disgrace itself

The Organization for American States was created to defend democracy in the Western Hemisphere, but last year it brazenly supported Manuel Zelaya’s coup d’état attempt in Honduras. When the coup was stopped on June 28 by the military, OAS supported the coupster Zelaya against all the democratic institutions of Honduras.

This pattern continues to this day. A few days ago the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released a report on Honduras. Felipe González stated – without blushing – that he had not even met with highest official responsible for Human Rights in Honduras, ombudsman Ramon Custodio, the sole reason being that Custodio had not rejected the democratic institutions of Honduras. Say again? On the face of it, González statements are so absurd one would be excused for believing that he was talking from inside a lunatic asylum. But apparently he is not. Or is he?

González said that he did not “believe” that president Lobo was trying to investigate the murders, e.g. of 7 journalists since March 1st. How about if he would rely less on faith and try to use facts instead for a change? It is a fact that Lobo has asked for investigation help from a number of countries, and at least the U.S. has agreed to provide such support. The problem is lack of resources, human and others, not lack of willpower or determination. With the highest murder rate in the world, small wonder that they are over-stretched.

An editorial in Honduras Weekly is dead on in the analysis on what is really going on in the country, and how the so-called international community is influencing events. While many in international media uncritically repeat propaganda lies that there is some kind of conspiracy in Honduras, with right-wing death squads, Antonio di Iorio correctly reports that the real problem is lack of human capital. Or as he calls it, more bluntly: Incompetence. I don’t want to insult anyone, but honestly, the level of incompetence in Honduras, at the highest levels of government, is mind-boggling. That is where the real problem is.

As de Iorio so correctly concludes, the international media campaign is doing great harm to Honduras, by adding stones to burden. What they need is help, assistance, to fight the most murderous, cynical, immoral organized crime syndicate found anywhere on this planet. But what does the media do? Play right into the hands of those cocaine dealers.

Thus, one might be excused for concluding that perhaps there is one group that is even more incompetent than the Honduran leadership, and that is the (mainly leftist) international media. As my countryman Axel Oxenstierna wrote in 1648, “If you only knew, my son, with how little wisdom the world is run.”

Brownshirt operation in Tegucigalpa

Update May 21, 2010, 15:23 – A German-Danish revolutionary-romantic, Johannes Wilm, has made a documentary about this attack, called La Joven Revolución Hondureña (The Young Honduran Revolution). The footage follows the organizers before, during, and after the operation. We can see in the video several of the persons involved in destroying the fast food restaurant. There are two student organizations involved, FUR and FRU (also known as FRUM it seems). The students had committed to show up with 150 persons, and an organization of workers with another 150. The video shows how they blocked the main road past the university, a 4 lane road, with burning tires, and how they planned to run into the university and change shirts to disappear when the police showed up. The video does not seem to show how the car below was set on fire, but in a split second a person in red shirt is seen carrying a big bat, around that time and place.

Original post August 6, 2009, 00:16 – During Wednesday a mob created a roadblock outside UNAH, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras. A group calling itself F.R.U., Frente de Reforma Universitaria (Front for University Reform) has claimed responsibility. According to the police they broke windows and burned a car. They did not let independent journalists photograph or videotape them, but called them “golpistas” (coup-makers) and broke their cameras. The police dispersed the mob with water cannons and tear gas, under an intense bombardment of stones.

According to F.R.U., though, it was students who were demonstrating peacefully, just to be chased away into the university campus. Once there the rector came out, arms in the air, to make peace but beaten by the police, it is claimed. The burning car is blamed on a tear gas grenade.

Burning car outside UNAH, Tegucigalpa
Burning car outside UNAH, Tegucigalpa

A closer examination of F.R.U., whose logotype leads the thoughts to Maoism and North Korea, shows that the website has had only 8935 visitors, that there are only a few posts on the discussion list (all read only a dozen times and none having got any comments), and that all of them are written by the same person, who is anonymous and hidden behind a gas mask. There is nothing that suggests a political platform, or any physical persons behind the alleged organization. There is, however, a link to TeleSUR’s webcast, the propaganda channel of Chávez.

Protesters at UNAH. Do these look like students to you?
Protesters at UNAH. Do these look like students to you?

Given that the protesters also look to old to be students, and as if they have arrived from outside, the conclusion can only be one: It was a brownshirt operation, the usual suspects that Chávez hires, in collusion with TeleSUR, the satellite TV channel of Hugo Chávez based in Venezuela.

Luckily most media in the world seem to have started to understand that there is something fishy about the reporting by TeleSUR, so very few have picked up on this story. An exception is Al Jazeera.

Human Rights under Attack in Sweden

Sweden’s largest newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, which plays a similar role in the Scandinavian country as the New York Times does in USA, has published an article apparently aimed at ostracizing a candidate for parliament. In the article, the candidate for the Center Party (which is politically similar to Wellstone Democrats) is accused of expressing anti-Semitic opinions on his website. A named party official is quoted as saying that they are looking into removing him from the ballot this fall, even though he has already been moved down so far, compared to the last election, that chances are very small that he will be elected.

The problem with the article is, though, that the accused it not given any opportunity to defend himself. The newspaper (which has Jewish ownership) quotes him as saying anti-Semitic things, but they are not offering the reader any opportunity to fact-check the claims, since they do not reveal his name. They just print a CYA statement that the unnamed person categorically denies that he or his statements are anti-Semitic.

It is clear that what they want to accomplish is a media campaign against this person so that he is removed from any chance of getting elected, while keeping his name hidden so that normal people, the electorate, are unable to judge for themselves, and make up their own mind. It is an insidious attack on the civil and political rights of the Swedish people, perpetrated by the country’s largest newspaper.

Beware, my countrymen back home. You country is not as free as you think it is.

PS. Of course they will accuse me of being anti-Semitic for writing this. It is their standard operating procedure. That is why there is no serious debate; they peel of one debater after another with that argument. It succeeds as long as honest and decent people do not stand up for each other, but believe what they say without an independent fact check. If that is you, listen to my advice: Assume that all they write is spin and propaganda, until you have been able to get independent confirmation. Some of it is true, but you have to start by assuming that you have no idea what is true and what is false. It is no conspiracy, it is just the effect of everyone acting in his own self-interest, spinning things in the way that benefits himself the most. Palestinians, Jews, everyone does that – anything else would be noteworthy. What is noteworthy is not that DN is spinning the news, what is noteworthy is that they are so unwilling to admit it, accusing those with another point of view of being anti-Semites.

Footnote: The withheld name in the article is Ove Svidén, and you can make up your own mind about his opinions by going to his web page:

Reforming Honduras Without a “Constituyente”

After all the talk about a constituting constitutional assembly, maybe it would be worthwhile to take a serious look at Honduras’s problems. Let me just first point out that to propose, promote, or assist in prolonging the presidential term limit, or allowing presidential re-election, causes a citizen to permanently lose his civil rights, according to article 42 of the constitution. Many in Honduras are now openly violating that paragraph. The fact is, that holding a “constituyente” is and remains treasonous. Furthermore, there are only 6 articles that cannot be changed legally. They are:

§4, which says that the form of government is republican, democratic, and representative.

§9, which defines the boundaries of the republic.

§239, which says that no president can be re-elected.

§373, which says that changes to the constitution can only be made by Congress by a 2/3 majority, and that two successive legislative sessions must approve the change for it to take effect.

§374, which lists the articles that cannot be changed under any circumstances.

§375, which says that if the constitution is supposedly changed by any other means it will still be in effect. This means that in the case of military surrender and occupation, revolution, or coup d’état that results in a new constitution (as when holding a constituyente), the old one is still in effect, and every citizen of Honduras has an obligation to collaborate in bringing it back in force. This is the final article in the Honduran constitution.

Rather than discussing if those paragraphs should be changed or not, it may be convenient to start from the other end: To first identify the problems to be solved. Next we look for the potential solutions to the problems. Finally we check what constitutional changes are required.


1. There is a lack of domestic peace.

Domestic peace means that different groups in society cooperate for the welfare of all, and compete with other countries in the world economy, rather than fighting each other. It means to make the Honduran cake larger, rather than trying to get oneself a bigger piece of a very small cake.

2. There is rampant corruption.

Honduras has a culture of corruption, which has to change. It has to become socially unacceptable to take or give bribes, or to take advantage of ones position. Of course, for those outside of government it already is, so if there was total transparency and accountability there could be no corruption.

Other issues are crime, and the apparent inability of the justice system to provide equal justice to rich and poor. The fact that some professions don’t pay tax is an apparent injustice, and may violate the constitutional provision for equality under the law (which, incidentally, any Honduran could file a case about at the Supreme Court of Justice if they wanted). There are many, many issues, but in my opinion, the rule of law and to establish domestic peace are fundamental, so I limit the problem list to those two.

Potential Solutions

Point 1 can be addressed in a similar way as Sweden did in the Saltsjöbaden Agreement in 1938. The Wikipedia description mentions the rules for strikes and lockouts, but omits some key points, namely what motivated the various groups to sign on to it. Every side got something of value to them:
– The party got all union members as party members, which gave them a financial advantage of huge proportions.
– The unions became in charge of unemployment insurance, which gave them members since all employees would join the union.
– The capitalists got peace on the labor market, but moreover, they got the unions as partners rather than opponents. With the huge funds the unions managed, they now have a vested interest in the capitalist system. The same goes for the social democratic party; they, too, were now totally committed to capitalism. (They tried a form of creeping nationalization of companies in the 1980’s, “löntagarfonder”, but that became their downfall and the end of their political hegemony in Sweden.)

The solution for Honduras may not look the same, but it should give something to all major actors that make them all work for the long-term good of the economic system of the country, and that eliminates wild strikes. This social contract can be created totally without legislation, if the unions and employer organizations are strong enough so that they can reign in the extremists on both sides.

Point 2 requires, in my opinion, that there is a stronger separation of powers in the government. Laws and regulations should be required to be general, and never to go into specifics. Congress and its members should be expressly forbidden to interfere in a specific case. In fact, they should not even be allowed to have a publicly stated opinion about how a law or regulation should be interpreted in a specific case. They should only be allowed to speak in generalities; anything else is “minister rule” – a very objectionable state of affairs.

This means that there must be only one power that passes laws, and that power must be absolutely banned from interpreting the laws. Already here we see that the constitution must be changed, since article 205 says: “Corresponden al Congreso Nacional las atribuciones siguientes: 1. Crear, decretar, interpretar, reformar y derogar las leyes;” The word “interpret” must be taken out, and other wording added to forbid “minister rule”.

Article 205 gives a long list of things that falls on Congress, and article 206 says that all but one of these cannot be delegated. Many of these deal with approving or disapproving individual acts of the Executive. The problem is that this opens the door for corruption, since Congressmen may be tempted to act in a way that benefits a certain constituent in return for a campaign contribution. By only allowing the Congress to dismiss the cabinet, for whatever reason, a greater separation is created. This is essentially the idea of parliamentarianism: That the parliament (congress) can fire the cabinet.


This proposal is based on changing the system from a presidential republic to a parliamentarian republic, since that gives more separation of powers, which helps combat corruption, and since it also gives greater stability by separating the roles of head of state and head of government. Case in point, if Honduras had been a parliamentarian republic on June 28, 2009, the Congress could have dismissed the head of government without any consequences for the diplomatic relations with other countries (and the president would not have had enough authority to challenge congress or the supreme court in the first place).

Head of State: President

He (or she) would be elected by the people just like today, and the article that says the president cannot be re-elected can stand as it is (§239). All that needs to change is that some of the responsibilities, as listed in article 245, would be moved to the Prime Minister (PM). The president’s main role would be to represent the country internationally, as a figure head mostly, and to handle the formalities of creating and dissolving cabinets.

Head of Government: The Prime Minister and the Cabinet

The executive is in this system divided on two persons, and the head of government is the prime minister. To his help the PM has a cabinet of ministers (consejo de ministros, consisting of the secretarios de estado). All decisions must be taken by the cabinet in session, not by the PM or any minster personally. All items to vote on must be on an agenda distributed a certain time in advance, about 2 days, to give a chance for reflection. It may be convenient to have the President to preside over the meeting of the cabinet, with its 13 members (1 PM plus 12 state secretaries, or ministers), but without giving the President any vote except as a tie breaker.

The cabinet, but not the president, can propose laws to Congress, and submits a budget for congressional approval every year.

The president invites one person to form a cabinet, and thus be PM, normally the leader of the biggest party after the election. If this person is unable to get support by a majority of Congress, he or she will report the failure to the president, who will then charge someone else with trying, until a cabinet has been formed. The cabinet will sit until it no longer has the support by the majority of Congress. This could come after an election loss, or if a majority of the members of Congress vote against the Cabinet’s request on some important issue (most important of which is the budget). The President will then have to ask someone else to form a new cabinet. In some countries a new election is usually held in this case, but not in e.g. Sweden. An interim cabinet, even a minority one, can there rule until the next ordinary election. This seems to work well.

This is the new feature compared to the present system. Most of the President’s responsibilities, and possibly some of Congress’s, would be moved to the Cabinet.

Judicial power: The Supreme Court

The court should be the only power authorized to interpret laws. They should not be allowed to write laws, but should be expected to comment on proposed laws. This is pretty much how it is today. It may be convenient, though, to create (if it doesn’t exist) some administrative court system, charged exclusively with overseeing the way the government administration implements laws and regulations visa-vi individuals and companies.

In the US and I suppose in Honduras, constituents can turn to their elected politician for help against the government if need be, the idea being that if the politician does not help he or she can be voted out. Obviously this system does not work very well. Therefore I propose to instead use the Swedish system, in which the politicians are expressly forbidden to intervene, but there is instead a judicial review of the actions – at no cost to the plaintiff, obviously. This creates a much better separation of powers and is thus more in line with the ideology of Count Montesquieu.

Legislative power: Congress

The legislature adopts laws, the state budget, and decides taxes. Laws must be general in nature, and no law can be created for a specific purpose. The Congress cannot interpret the laws it creates. A separate Constitutional Commission reviews all proposed laws to assure that they agree with the constitution before they are voted on. All bills are presented publicly in their final form for an up or down vote at least, say, 7 days before the vote, except in a national emergency.

The Congress should get the new power to be able to expressly fire the prime minister (in other words, the cabinet).

Is it Possible?

In my judgment, YES, since the form of government will remain “republican, democratic, and representative.” It will in addition to that be parliamentarian, but that is a sub-category of “republican, democratic, and representative” so it should pose no problem with article 4. The other 5 unchangeable paragraphs are quite obviously not affected, so this would be constitutional as I see it.

What needs to be changed?

The changes are probably limited to Title V, the powers of the state. Most of the changes will be in Chapter VI, the executive power, but there should be changes, as mentioned, also to the legislative, and probably also to the judicial.

The path towards accomplishing this is long. The first step should be to write a report on the background, and explain in clear detail what the objective is with the change. This should involve or be followed by a national debate, on various levels.

The next step is to turn those objectives into a draft new constitution, by proposing the exact changes to be made to the existing one. In this step it may be appropriate to hold an academic conference with international participation, to gather the brightest constitutional scholars from around the world to scrutinize the proposed changes. The purpose is to find potential loopholes and flaws, so that the text may be refined as much as possible.

The final step is for Congress to vote on the change, as per article 373.

What about the Constituyente?

If this is possible, then why do some segments in Honduras argue that it is necessary to hold a constituting constitutional assembly (which as we have seen is patently unconstitutional)? What is it that they deem necessary to change, and that cannot be changed without such a, frankly, coup d’état?

They will not say. They offer no arguments. Their draft of a new constitution is not made available for scrutiny. However, we can deduce that it simply has to include making the president re-electable, since everything else that has any significance can be changed constitutionally. This matches what I have been told via a source in that group: They are discussing prolonging the maximum terms to between 8 and 16 years, from 4 today.

So which is better (disregarding the constitutionality for a moment)? A president is similar to an elected king in Medieval Scandinavia, I’ve heard (I wasn’t around). They both had a cabinet and a congress, but the congress could not dismiss neither the head of state nor his cabinet. Scandinavian republics (Iceland and Finland) have chosen not to return to that system, but instead to base their constitution on the parliamentarian monarchy as model, just replacing a hereditary kingship with an elected president. It retains more power to the people’s representatives, the parliamentarians, the congressmen. It allows for the immediate dismissal of the government for political reasons, unlike the present system in Honduras (the same as the US). All four countries in the top of the league when it comes to low corruption (New Zealand, Denmark, Singapore, Sweden) have a parliamentarian system of government.

It sure seems that if democracy is the goal, parliamentarianism is the way to go. This leads to the inevitable conclusion that those advocating for a constituyente in Honduras are – apart from traitors to the constitution – simple demagogues who are just out to enrich themselves, taking advantage of the people who don’t understand better.


I have argued for years and years that Honduras needs reform, and possibly also constitutional reform, and that the extreme social differences constitutes fertile ground for demagogues to come in. I have warned of revolution, since the situation was similar to that in Finland when my grandfather grew up, with the fighting between the red and the white around 1905. In 2009 the events in Honduras proved me right, unfortunately. The good thing about it, is that there is now a general acceptance of the need for reform. The ground is fertile for improving conditions now. The rich understand that they have to negotiate, give and take.

The time for a new social pact is now. This is a golden opportunity for Honduras.

The leaders of the workers and other groups would be well advised to cease the opportunity. Those that argue for confrontation are not your friends! They are demagogues who just want to fill their own pockets.

Hondurans, you will know your friends this way: They will try to create peace and justice, they will fight corruption, and they will try to establish a social pact that makes everyone the winner.

If the majority supports those goals, Honduras will be among the 40 richest countries in the world within 40 years, of that I am certain.

First 100 days in Honduras: New Hope?

May 7th will mark the 100th day that Porfirio Lobo Sosa is president in Honduras. So how has he done, and what is the status for Honduras now?

Pepe Lobo started out already before he was sworn in by going to the Dominican Republic, and signing an agreement that the then deposed president Manuel Zelaya would be allowed to leave Honduras for DR on the day of Lobo’s inauguration.

This decision was politically necessary. Honduras was virtually bankrupt due to (1) Zelaya’s disastrous policies and corruption, (2) the global recession, and (3) the harsh economic sanctions from the world against Honduras for having defended itself against the coup d’état that Mel Zelaya was carrying out in 2009. It was politically necessary to get Zelaya out, and end the military siege on the former Brazilian embassy (which had become necessary under interim president Micheletti, when Zelaya engaged in sedition from its roof, without Brazil stopping him, even though it is a violation of international law).

However, no matter how politically necessary it was, it was very unpopular in Honduras, where they wanted to see Zelaya in prison for his crimes. Micheletti stepped back from the stage at that moment, expressing no opinion about the action taken by Lobo, but deferring to the president elect. This was a wise move, and it clearly demonstrated that Micheletti respected democracy.

Lobo went on to have a Congress dominated by his party pass a law with a long term plan for Honduras. However, from before the election there has been an element on the extreme left that refuses to recognize him as the legitimate executive of the country. And after his trip to DR, many who supported Micheletti and had great hopes for Lobo, lost their faith in him. The only side from which he has got support is the United States. That is not a desirable seat. History is full of regimes that have had a strong support from USA, but not from their countrymen. It usually does not bode well.

So why is the US ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, acting as a proconsul in Honduras, a viceroy? During the political crisis that started March 23, 2009 (when Zelaya decreed that a poll on holding a referendum on creating a constitutional assembly would be held June 28, 2009), to June 26th, 2009, the democratic institutions of Honduras acted appropriately. However, on June 26th, in the middle of a very tense situation when it was perceived that Zelaya was carrying out a coup d’état that had to be stopped, and the US backed Zelaya rather than democracy, the democratic institutions started taking decisions that were not entirely legal, according to the report from Human Rights Foundation.

Specifically, the arrest order for Zelaya was not formally correct in all details, they claim. Also the acts by Congress on June 28, and the Court on the following days, were not formally within the law, according to the report. However, the report does conclude that the Supreme Court had every right and justification for removing Zelaya from office – they just didn’t follow the proper protocol.

Since it is precisely this failure to follow protocol that caused the legal act to be interpreted as a military coup, and this had disastrous consequences for Honduras’ economy, as well as for Obama’s foreign policy, it is easy to see why Obama would like to offer advice to Honduras so that they avoid making such – for him – embarrassing formal mistakes. I am the first to admit that it is a good thing that the democratic institutions receive competent advice.

However, to have the US ambassador provide that advice is very detrimental for peace and reconciliation. It’s like sieving mosquitos and swallowing elephants. It is disastrous for the US image in Latin America and the Middle East (think Iraq and Afghanistan, and how the US is helping those regimes). It is also disastrous for Lobo, since it severely undermines his credibility among his own constituents.

The advice should be provided, but not through a political method. It should instead be provided via academic channels, from a foreign university via a Honduran university, for instance. Academic conferences, workshops, networking; that is the appropriate method for this kind of assistance. In my opinion both Obama and Lobo – not to mention Llorens – are counterproductive in how they go about this business.

In his defense, it may well be that Lobo doesn’t feel he has much choice but to accept the dictates from Big Brother Obama. The one who is in debt is not free, as Swedish PM Persson said.

As if this was not enough, the high crime wave from 2009 shows no sign of decreasing. There is seemingly indiscriminate killings of journalists, and there is obviously not a single reason behind them. Most of the crimes are certainly committed by street gangs and drug cartels, two kinds of organized crime. The justice system, including the police, is for sure corrupt, making it hard to stop this wave of crime. This is a serious problem, in fact, more serious than the calls for an illegal constituting constitutional assembly.

The first quarter of this year there were no foreign investments in Honduras. It completely dried up. Some believe that investments are the first step to turning the economy around, but the first step has to be taken by ordinary Hondurans.

Investors seek to minimize risks. The lower the risks, the lower return on investment they can accept. In Honduras today, the risks outweigh any reasonable expectation for ROI. These are some of the risks:

1. Revolution (i.e. that the constitutional assembly is held and is successful) since that would most likely result in private companies being nationalized without compensation, as in other countries that Chavez controls;

2. Criminality: murders, kidnappings, extortion, burglary, corruption;

3. Strikes, blockades, civil unrest, terrorism;

4. Infrastructure failure like electricity cutoffs, if the country cannot afford to buy oil, since much of the electricity is generated from diesel-powered plants;

5. Unexpected government mandates, such as Zelaya’s sudden raise of the minimum salary by 60%.

How could any board justify to the shareholders investing in Honduras in the present situation? The economy is in the tanks, and nothing will improve until there is stability. But here is the thing: This stability cannot be imposed from the outside (no foreign troops in the world can create stability in a country, because occupation is the opposite of stability). Nor can it be created top down alone.

While Pepe Lobo can try to improve the justice system and the police – and he is trying very hard in those fields – it will not be enough unless the people take responsibility, too.

The first step to economic progress is personal responsibility.

Personally, I am convinced that Honduras can be among the top 40 richest countries in the world within 40 years, if the Hondurans embrace this goal and starts working for it. It requires a concerted effort, it requires inspiration, but what will make it happen is that the masses start taking responsibility for their country, for their laws, for their development.

Personal responsibility means doing the right thing all the time, not just when someone is watching. It means rejecting corruption, and not protecting criminals even if they are family. Perhaps this is a foreign concept, but the law has to come before blood if the circle of corruption is to be broken. (It may also take a reconciliation process in which past corruption is forgiven in exchange for testimony, so that a fresh start becomes possible and the risk of revenge against the one who breaks the circle is eliminated.)

The challenges are thus great, but not insurmountable. What it does take is more than a political process; it is more of a spiritual awakening that is required. Meanwhile Pepe Lobo seems to be doing the best he can under the circumstances, and one can only hope that the Obama administration does not trip the wagon.

Mexican Gulf oil spill may have precedent

When being faced with this disastrous pollution crisis it may be useful to step back and put it into perspective, to avoid overreacting. We don’t want the patient to die of the side effects of the medication, do we? It turns out that we might be able to learn something from a pre-historic event that was similar, or even worse, than this one.

The reports today (e.g., NYTimes) say that about 210,000 gallons of oil is leaking out per day. In more normal measurement units that equals 800 m3/day, or 0.01 m3/s. It’s a trickle, it’s not even a stream. A small river would typically have several, or several tens, of cubic meters per second in discharge. This is just 10 liters per second – but it is oil, not water, so it is 10 liters too much.

Where does it go? Because of its density, it ends up at the water surface, impeding the interchange of gases between the atmosphere and the ocean. With time, driven by winds and currents it reaches land and pollutes one of the most important natural environments on Earth; the coast. It dirties beaches, and destroys the conditions for creatures such as turtles who depend on them. I suppose one could include tourists in “creatures.”

Petroleum is a mixture of different hydrocarbon molecules. A portion of the oil spill is likely to sink after a while, when the lighter fractions have evaporated or been decomposed. It may become buried in the sediments again, with each drop of tar covered with sand grains. Incidentally, there is a new factory in Miami that produces instruments for monitoring this accumulation of sediments, the SediMeter.

When considering the long-term effect of the oil spill, one should keep in mind that petroleum is a natural product, unlike some other compounds that man emits to the environment. In certain parts of the world petroleum slowly seeps out of the ground – or used to, until man came around and drilled into the reservoir underneath.

However, a petroleum reservoir may have been breached naturally at the end of Pleistocene, as I argued last year in a scientific article in Geografiska Annaler, “A jökulhlaup from a Laurentian captured ice shelf to the Gulf of Mexico could have caused the Bølling warming.” From the Conclusions:

“The Gulf Coast contains vast petroleum reserves. It is arguably very likely that gas and oil was released when the Mississippi Canyon was formed. This might be the source of the increased atmospheric methane concentration recorded in the Greenland ice core at the start of Bølling and Holocene.

“This chain of events may have acted in a similar way at the end of each major Laurentian glaciation, and possibly also at D/O events. Geological data suggests that it has been repeated at least eight, possibly a hundred times, all in the Pleistocene. It may play a decisive role in bringing about the sudden climate changes that are so characteristic of the Quaternary period, as well as in creating the Mississippi Fan.”

These events took place 14,600 and 11,500 years ago, and possible a first event occurred already 15,500 years ago. It is related to the end of the Ice Age; a giant flood in the Missouri and Mississippi scourged the continental shelf off the present coastline, and eroded a canyon a mile deep. The same thing has happened once or twice at the end of every ice age, 8 times the past million years. The material was then deposited as the Mississippi Sub-Marine Fan, a mile-thick accumulation of sand and mud that has accumulated in a geological instant: A million years.

When these past oil spills hypothetically occurred, the sea level was, however, much lower than the present. Still, at that time there were coral reefs near the water surface from the southern tip of Florida and far up the east coast of Florida, just like today. The oil may have been brought to these reefs by the currents, causing severe harm to them. However, unlike today the reefs will not have been given much chance to recover, because after the megaflood in the Mississippi the world sea level would have risen dramatically. A small rise was caused by the flood itself, but instability in other inland ice sheets, and sudden global climate warming, gave rise to much more sea-level rise; many meters in total each time.

The Mississippi has a fantastic geologic history, and amazingly there is still more geologic research to be done in understanding how this all came about. The thing to keep in mind here is that (with the exception of completely new chemicals) almost nothing man does hasn’t been done already by nature itself. There is always a lesson to be learned by studying geology, and the natural variability of landscape and climate on our planet.

Path of the inferred megaflood, or jökulhlaup.
Path of the inferred megaflood, or jökulhlaup.

Finally, I wish media would listen less to the sensationalists and pay more attention to the scientific fields that have taken on a topic from the ground up, like geology, and not from the vintage point of a specific hypothesis, like global warming.

Truth Commission to be installed today

The truth commission, initially proposed by the Micheletti side in the San José talks, will be installed today in Tegucigalpa. The purpose of the commission is specified in the accord signed by Micheletti and Zelaya. It is to bring out the truth of what happened before, during, and after June 28, so that Honduras may learn from the experience and avoid that it happens again.

In short, they must investigate what chain of events led up to the disastrous consequence that no country in the world recognized the Honduran government.

According to the Human Rights Foundation report, the Supreme Court had every right to separate Zelaya from power, since he had engaged in a coup d’état, but the process was not carried out properly, starting with the military acting beyond their orders when they expatriated Zelaya to Costa Rica June 28th.

The truth seems to scare the Zelaya supporters, who have now announced that they will create their very own, partisan, “truth commission” in order to narrowly look at only what happened after June 28th. Among the things that I predict they will cover up is the involvement of Zelaya’s propaganda director in the death of the 19-year old boy at Tegucigalpa Airport July 5th, as I blogged about yesterday.

Zelaya’s propaganda director has blood on his hands

Continuing the analysis of the events of July 5th, 2009, at Tegucigalpa Airport, Honduras, we will now look at the actions of Cesar Silva, Zelaya’s propaganda director. To complement the picture from Silva’s own video I have used videos from Al Jazeera, teleSUR, and BBC. According to the one who tipped me off, the scene from BBC was originally a bit longer, but I have not yet found that full length scene. The scene has been reported to the prosecutor in Honduras.

Since all of the evidence used is in the form of videos, this analysis was also made as a video, with comments in yellow. Some parts of the Spanish sound has been subtitled, but irrelevant parts are mostly ignored. Most of the text is comments to the videos. All of the sound is original, but sometimes it has been turned off not to distract too much.

Video about July 5, 2009 shooting, small (320×240)large (640×480).

What does this mean? Their strategy is to create one incident after another, and to consistently skew the reporting to manipulate the world opinion into thinking that a military coup d’état took place on June 28th; although in reality, what happened that day was that the creeping coup d’état that was being executed by Manuel Zelaya was permanently stopped.

The method is to repeat the lie over and over until people believe it. If one or two or three things are revealed as propaganda tricks it does not matter in their strategy, because they so overwhelm the airwaves.

For those of us who prefer to analyze things thoroughly, the revelation that the demonstrators were armed and may very well have shot the boy themselves, in combination with their lying about being armed, and apparently trying to cover up the circumstances around the shooting, is a game-changer. If this is a fake story created by the propaganda, then every story about the so-called resistance to the so-called coup loses most if not all of its credibility.

It also says a lot about the poor investigative resources that the Honduran police and prosecutor have at their disposal. To reveal this death as a propaganda fraud would have had tremendous importance for the state. Still, no action seems to have been taken. If they cannot investigate something that is so important and beneficial for them to investigate, then we can hardly blame the lack of investigation in the over 5,000 other murders per year on deliberate negligence. They desperately need help, and president Lobo is now requesting that from a number of countries. It’s a good initiative.