The Honduran end game

After 3 months of fighting in the proverbial boat they are all sharing, the Hondurans are now realizing that it is sinking under them, and that it is time to stop the infighting and start sailing again. Serious negotiations are now under way under the radar.

In the bow we have Zelaya with his supporters, who want the constitutional assembly as well as Zelaya’s restitution. They adjust the front sails to stop the boat rather than helping to get speed.

In the stern, controlling the mainsail and the rudder, we have Micheletti, and until further notice, the courts, the congress, and most of the private enterprise.

The stern team have made very clear that Zelaya cannot be reinstated under any circumstances, for legal reasons. From third parties the proposal has been made that Zelaya is reinstated rather symbolically. That might have worked if the objection had been political, but if the objection is legal?

Maybe an opening could be possible if one separated Zelaya from the issue. Let us accept, tentatively, that he cannot be reinstated. Let us also accept that creating a “constituyente” for a new constitution is illegal, and that holding a referendum about it therefore would be a meaningless waste of tax money. However, the “constituyente” is obviously not the end game for the opposition; it is just a means to another end.

Let’s assume that they have legitimate grievances regarding the constitution. How should that be addressed democratically and constitutionally? The constitution can be changed by the congress. A referendum can be arranged by the election tribunal, after, I suppose, a decision by congress to allocate the funds. A reasonable approach, or compromise, might therefore be to arrange a vote in the November elections on whether congress should create a commission for constitutional review. This commission should work openly and use public hearings, review procedures and so on, to include civil society in the discussion.

On the other hand, Honduras is in an economical crisis and government functions have been impaired by the change of president. To again change the executive now, with less than 4 months to the next change of president, seems very risky. Would it not be better to sit still in the boat for a few months, under a care-taking interim government?

Thus, my proposal is:

1. Hold a referendum on November 29 with the question “Do you agree that congress should create a commission for reviewing the constitution, and that this commission shall work transparently and in cooperation with civil society?”

2. Due to the economical crisis and the cost of the extra ballot, foreign aid from the US and or EU should be made available for the referendum.

3. All civil rights are restored and not suspended again except if decided by congress.

4. Micheletti remains as interim president until January 27.

5. Zelaya is not restored as president but will be able to participate as a delegate in the commission to reform the constitution, if the people answers Yes on the referendum question – and so will Micheletti.

The legal cases against Zelaya is another matter, and I for one am all for enforcing the law, and to separate legal matters from political matters.