Llorens misled Washington: Wikileaks

Through a Wikileaks leaked U.S. diplomatic telegram (backup link using the IP number) from Tegucigalpa on July 23, 2009, we now know what the ambassador, Hugo Llorens, reported home regarding what he considered a coup.

First he reports the facts as he saw them. I note that he left out the fact that the Supreme Court had ordered president Zelaya to stop his activities with the referendum that he had planned for June 28th, and to report how he had obeyed the order no later than June 25th (see point 6). The president’s failure to submit that report on June 25th constituted a prima facie failure to obey the order. Llorens was thus wrong as regards the facts when he wrote to Washington that Zelaya’s breaking the law was “alleged but not proven”.

Whereas Llorens reported that it was just suspected that Zelaya might violate the court order by holding the referendum on June 28, he was in fact already in defiance of a court order by not submitting the report. The court case had played out, which Llorens either missed or chose to omit.

Regarding the arrest order for the president, he is implicitly dismissing it, by saying that the military does not have the authority to carry out judicial orders. He does not say whether he thinks that it was issued on the date that appears on it, or after the fact with a false date; he just says that they don’t have the authority, and that they did not act as if executing a judicial order of arrest on the morning of June 28th.

In his comments, Llorens speculates that they fell back to the old-fashioned ways of dealing with an unwanted president when the democratic institutions seemed unable to come up with a way to deal with the situation. He also expresses the hope that the prosecution of the militaries may open the door for a way out of the conflict. As we know, they were prosecuted in January, 2010, but it didn’t change the game – probably for coming way too late, and for the militaries to be let off the hook way to easy.

There is of course no arguing that the handling of the matter was poor. Llorens himself admits that they probably had due cause for the arrest and prosecution of the president (something that the U.S. did not admit publicly), so one cannot but be angry at the incompetence of those who deposed Zelaya. However, that incompetence in the execution can not justify Zelaya’s crimes, or render them null and void. Each crime must be handled independently by the courts.

The bottom line is that Hugo Llorens misled Washington, to the detriment of Honduras, but to the benefit of Zelaya. However, what is most misleading is the omission of any mentioning of Llorens’s own participation.

When reading the telegram one gets the image that Llorens tried to figure out what happened post facto. The truth is, though, that Hugo Llorens very much was a participant in the events that culminated June 28th. He participated in several meetings the week before, according to my sources who were in those same meetings. However, he does not pretend to know anything about that in this telegram. It definitely leaves me with a feeling that he was being disingenuous to his own boss. (In early July he was suspected of having alerted Zelaya about the legal proceedings against him, and his imminent arrest; this cable mentions neither any legal proceedings nor his knowing about them.)

Climate Debate with a Believer

On an email list maintained by NOAA, a little debate erupted recently over how to argue and convince the rest of the community that anthropogenic climate change is a significant threat. I offered some advice, namely that they should stick to science, use relevant arguments, and avoid hype and hysteria. The reaction was hilarious. Read the exchange with professor Risk for yourselves!

On 2010-11-23, at 08:48, Melbourne Briscoe wrote:

Isn’t the point that what we are doing is not working? So, we do not stop trying, but we have the CHANGE what we are doing….what do we change?

Constant repetition of facts is demonstrably an unsuccessful strategy. Get over it. What do we do instead?

On Tue, 23 Nov 2010 10:28 Ulf Erlingsson wrote:

As long as there are serious scientists who are not convinced, it will be hard to convince all of the non-scientists.

I propose to try to debate with and convince those who consider that the case has not yet been made.

Listen to their arguments. Meet them. And DON’T CALL THEM NAMES.

I think the debate went seriously wrong at the moment when proponents of the hypothesis lost their temper. Bad idea.

Also, look for common ground instead of seeing conflicts. Example:

Nobody is denying that pollution is bad. So why not focus on decreasing the air pollution? After all, the methods are rather similar: Decrease the burning of fossil fuels. What does it matter to nature WHY we decrease it?

There is a difference, but put the difference aside and work for results rather than getting hung up on that difference.


On 2010-11-23, at 11:11, Michael Risk wrote:

Ulf: That won’t work. Many (but not ALL) the scientists on the denial side are well-funded by oil companies. Unless and until someone can break that chain, reason will lose out to self-interest. Examples:

Gene Shinn is an honest man who enjoys keeping the rest of us honest.

Tim Ball is a hack who gets tons of oil money.

Which of these two will “recant” if shown the data?


On Tue, 23 Nov 2010 11:37 Ulf Erlingsson wrote:

The thing is that the MAJORITY of people in my scientific discipline and network are not yet convinced.

Why do you call us deniers? From our point of view, it is you who are acting in an un-scientific way, using hysteria rather than solid arguments. Most importantly, those on your side IGNORE the counter-arguments, and use irrelevant arguments (such as name calling, threats, hysteria) rather than relevant scientific arguments.

At least that is how I experience it. If you are right, then your side needs to improve the communication skills… 😉


On 2010-11-23, at 12:58, Michael Risk wrote:

Hello Ulf.
I know better than to try to convince anyone in this debate. Positions have hardened.

There is NO ONE in my field of research who does not accept the consequences of increased CO2. To me/us this seems so obvious as to need no debate.

All the various arguments erected by deniers (and that is what they are) have been shot down repeatedly.

-yes, CO2 lags temp during interglacials. Because the ocean degasses.
-yes, water vapour is a potent gh gas-it is an effect, not a cause.
-yes, the climate has changed in the past. This is beyond bullshit. OF COURSE it has, we all know this. Some of us even have a handle on rates.
-yes, there is a real hockey stick.
-no, the leaked emails do NOT amount to a climategate, they simply show us that scientists are people. Although the TIMING of the release is suspicious: whoever the hackers were, they held the emails almost a year, until just before Copenhagen.
-yes, of course it’s getting warmer. There are now three huge independent data sets, open to all, that say the same thing.

…and on and on.

As you may or may not be aware, much of the denial material is managed and processed by the same consultants that worked for Big Tobacco, telling is cigarette smoke did no harm. Those same ad agencies were picked up holus-bolus by Big Oil. So you are on shakey ground when you insult me, personally, in this way, accusing me of using hysteria. You are the one who is in bed with the snakeoil salesmen.

If you read some of my papers, you might change your mind-but I doubt it.


On 2010-11-23, at 1:23 PM, Ulf Erlingsson wrote:

What is being predicted? On what assumptions? Are those assumptions realistic? What if the predictions are correct, is that really significant?

Those are the questions that I still haven’t seen answered, after years and decades of debate.


Ulf Erlingsson

On 2010-11-23, at 13:58, Michael Risk wrote:

Ulf, I will do you the favour of not lumping you with the Dollar Deniers, of whom there are plenty. But that still doesn’t get you off the hook. In some ways, you are the worst sort of denier, the logical-sounding scientist who simply wants all the doubt to be removed before he acts. You cannot allow yourself to see the forest for the trees.

These are facts:
-the globe is warming.
-the oceans are warming, and growing more acidic.
-sea level is rising.
-atmospheric CO2 has risen.

You had better have a good story to tell your kids to explain why you didn’t act. This exchange is over.

Dr. Michael J Risk
Professor of Biology and Geology

On 2010-11-23, at 2:22 PM, Ulf Erlingsson wrote:


“This exchange is over”? ROFL

Admit it, you ran out of arguments. You used a plethora of irrelevant arguments towards me, but the one who has to be prepared to explain his actions, or lack thereof, is YOU, professor Risk.

In the last country where I worked in the field, about 2/3 of the population lived below the poverty line. Fully 1/3 suffered from some degree of starvation. Still, that is not their biggest problem: their biggest problem is the rampant violence with a murder rate higher than that in Baghdad in the height of the insurgency – and this violence is fueled by cocaine-users in the United States of America.

And you seriously think that a temperature change of a degree or two several generations into the future should be my main concern?

Your arrogance is mind-boggling, professor Risk. Absolutely mind-boggling. In fact, so mind-boggling that I will write about this on my blog. I just feel sick to my stomach from what you wrote.


Said and done.

Honduras: Land Conflict Background

This article is a personal reflection, my version if you will, of the agricultural coop movement from the reform sector in Honduras, which I believe has contributed to the land problems we are seeing nowadays. Let me first say that I believe Honduras has a very good if not excellent cooperative law and regulations; therefore, I do not think that is the problem. May be the problem is enforcement.

Following on my dad’s steps who worked on cooperative extension back in the 60s after receiving training in the US, I had my share of experience working on agricultural coops in the 80s. Ag-coops were popular at that time, induced by the reforma agraria which started in the early 60s but did not picked up momentum until the 70s and 80s. As such, the agricultural coop movement became very politicized, and most of the agricultural coops were not born out of the farmers own needs, but were also induced since in order for landless peasants to be beneficiaries of the agrarian reform and recipients of large extensions of land under the reforma agraria, they had to be organized.

The most common and typical organizational model were agricultural coops which comprised the so called “reformed sector”. One of the main characteristics of the reformed sector is that in its majority, lacked governability, in part as a result of the lack of education of the coops members (consider that most if not all coops members were landless peasants who did not have access to resources, education, etc.), reason why they were managed by outsiders appointed by politicians and for political reasons; consequently, they were mismanaged leading to corruption and the failure of many ag-coops. Still, a few were very successful, especially those on the banana and palm oil subsector. Due to the failure of most ag-coops from the reform sector, the “Cooperative” word as an agricultural organization, become almost a prohibited one in Honduras; especially since many farmers felt cheated and that they were taken advantage of, since they never saw the promised results of the agrarian reform.

Then came the 90s, and along with it the WB and IMF induced macroeconomic and structural reforms in Honduras, which included the liberalization of markets and privatization of public enterprises. In the agricultural sector the market liberalization included the factors of production, (read: tierras agricolas), for what the government saw the need to privatized the lands that were assigned to the reform sector since until then, they were considered public lands given to the reform sector just for the usufruct, and as such they could not be sold. Consequently, as result of the structural reforms, the government gave ownership through private property titles to the coops members and some, including large ones and considered successful coops, collectively decided to sell their land (e.g. Cooperative Gaunchias); in the process creating a new generation of landless peasants.

Based on this description, I think that it at least in part explains the land problems the country is facing nowadays. Some of the new landless peasants may be the offspring of the ones who sold the land back then and feel that they were cheated out of their land also, especially when considering the current value of such land compared to the sale value of back then. Some are asking to be re-compensated and others just want what they consider “their” land back. As the problem evolves, let’s see what happens.