Honduras congress voted last night to give amnesty to politicians, for the political crimes committed in connection with then president Zelaya’s attempt at overthrowing the form of government. He openly ignored and even ridiculed the other branches of government, until the Supreme Court of Justice issued an arrest order for him, and Congress deposed him on charges of treason, among others. It is for those political crimes that he is now being given amnesty. The charges of corruption still stand.
The Congress has to vote twice for the amnesty to take effect. The second vote will take place at 6 in the morning today, i.e., in about half an hour.
The Nationalists, the president elect’s party (he will be sworn in at 9 AM today), voted in favor, while the Liberal party, to which Zelaya and the interim president Micheletti belong, mostly abstained (just one in favor and one against).
The amnesty does not affect the supporters of Zelaya who in riots have caused property damage. Nor does it affect the police and military who had to confront those riots.
The amnesty was pressed on Honduras by the U.S., apparently against the will of the majority of its people. However, by explicitly not including the corruption charges, drug trafficking, and other non-political offenses, the politicians have tried to thread the needle. The amnesty only covers the political crimes of members of the Zelaya administration, according to La Prensa: terrorism, sedition, treason, and crimes against the form of government. Also common crimes in connection with the political ones are covered by the amnesty: usurpation of functions, violations of the rights of functionaries, disobedience, and abuse of authority.
Congressman Ascencio said in the debate that the purpose is to bring real peace to the country, but the amnesty will not do that, why he voted against it.
Congressman Saavedra from the Liberal party, who was president of the congress for the last 7 months, said that they abstained from voting because the bill had not been open for public comments, and because the Truth Commission should be formed first so that it becomes clear who exactly it is who will benefit from the amnesty, since until today nobody considers themselves in need of any amnesty.
The small parties UD and PINU voted against the amnesty, UD because they believe the purpose of the amnesty is to favor those who deposed Zelaya, not Zelaya. UD got less than 2% of the votes in the last election.
In my modest opinion, this amnesty is very bad for the country. It will be used abroad, by news agencies like AFP (Agence Faux Propagande?) as proof that there was a coup d’état, even though this has been proven wrong in the supreme court. Furthermore, it does not cover those poor souls who, believing the international media’s assertion that it was a coup, went out in resistance to the alleged coup and violated the laws. They are left facing justice for their crimes. They, the small people on the streets, are left responsible for the mistakes and/or deliberate lies of international media! Shame on the liars, shame on those who pressed this disgraceful amnesty bill on Honduras.
There appears to be no limits. Many international media have never told the truth about the events around June 25 to 28, 2009. Some foreign media, e.g. Chinese Xinhua, even go so far as to bold-faced lies, such as to claim that the amnesty applies also to the military. If there is anything everyone should learn from this, it is that you cannot trust media, you have to investigate for yourself.
Anecdotally, foreign investors were looking favorably on investing in Honduras as this year started, but they put the plans on hold when Lobo signed the deal with the Dominican president, giving Zelaya free passage away from Honduras and justice. Now, even worse, I would think. What are the chances of getting him to stand trial for the extraordinarily large corruption in his government? Pepe Lobo has – already before he took office – squandered most of the capital of trust that Micheletti had built up in the population for the government.
If what the international community wanted was to make sure that Honduras remains a third world recipient of aid and producer of cheap goods, then they have probably succeeded. Unless, that is, the Hondurans stand arm in arm, push back, and demand accountability. I hope the UCD, Union Civica Democratica, continues to hold the president’s feet to the fire.
Footnote: On his last day in office, president Micheletti yesterday signed a bill into law that makes Honduras leave ALBA, the Chavez-led group of countries that also includes Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, etc.