The Truth Commission in Honduras

The political crisis in Honduras last year ended in an agreement, the Guaymuras Accord, in which it was stipulated in point 6 that a Truth Commission be formed to investigate what really led up to the crisis, so that the risk of repetition can be minimized. The commission is working since this Spring, and the report is due in early 2011.

The text gives these instructions, in my translation: “With the purpose of clarifying the events occurred before and after June 28, 2009, a Truth Commission will also be created that will identify the acts that led to the present situation, and present to the Honduran people elements to avoid that these acts are repeated in the future.” The Spanish original reads, “Con el fin de esclarecer los hechos ocurridos antes y después del 28 de junio de 2009, se creará también una Comisión de la Verdad que identifique los actos que condujeron a la situación actual, y proporcione al pueblo de Honduras elementos para evitar que estos hechos se repitan en el futuro.

On the website of the Truth Commission, a scheme of inquiry is described.

A work plan for the truth commission could rather look something like what I will describe here. It is based on the scientific method, in which one erects an hypothesis and then tries to prove it wrong.

  1. Erect the hypothesis that the institutions (the courts, the congress, etc.) acted correctly in relation to the deposing of Zelaya, and try to disprove this hypothesis. Note that it would be scientifically wrong to erect the hypothesis that they acted incorrectly, since that hypothesis is virtually impossible to disprove. The burden of proof has to be on the one that claims that they acted wrong, not on the one that claims they acted correctly. Therefore, the null hypothesis must be that they acted correctly.
  2. Establish a paper trail for what happened, gather documents and other evidence and try to verify their veracity.
  3. Evaluate the actions (by Zelaya and others) and the reactions (by the judicial branch) step by step, in chronological order, based on the Honduran Constitution, the Honduran law, and Honduran jurisprudence.
  4. Repeat this procedure for each institution, i.e., the legislative, the prosecutor, the military, the police, and so on.
  5. For every case where someone acted outside the law, verify if the case was dealt with appropriately by the judicial.

If no proof of wrongdoing can be found with this approach, then the hypothesis is retained, and the institutions are found to have acted within the law. If some wrongdoing is found, then one must follow up and see how that wrongdoing was dealt with (point 5). If it was dealt with appropriately, then, too, the institutionality of Honduras shall be deemed to have passed the hypothesis-testing.

Jumping the gun, what it will come down to is the expatriation of Zelaya. We already know that those responsible were prosecuted. The question is rather if Zelaya was held harmless;in other words, if his legal rights were respected the same in the light of his illegal expatriation, as they would have been had he instead been thrown in jail as the arrest warrant ordered. This is of course somewhat of an hypothetical, since he has not returned to Honduras to face justice. The only way to find out if there is justice or not is, really, for him to return and defend himself in court.

If the commission does its work appropriately, we will have authoritative answers to these questions:

  1. Does the Supreme Court have the authority of arrest the president (based on Honduran jurisprudence, of course)?
  2. Did the Supreme Court, on June 26 when the arrest warrant was issued, have due cause for issuing the arrest warrant?
  3. Does the Supreme Court have the authority to relieve the president from office, temporarily or permanently?
  4. Does the Congress have the authority to relieve the president from office, temporarily or permanently?
  5. Who issued the order to expatriate Mel Zelaya?
  6. Has the one(s) who issued the order to expatriate Mel Zelaya been prosecuted according to the laws?
  7. Has Zelaya’s legal rights been safeguarded, before and after he was illegally expatriated?

The more important question may not be if the commission will do its job correctly, but if media will report its conclusions correctly.

The Risks and how to Mitigate them

It seems clear beyond reasonable doubt that there is a concerted attack against Honduras carried out by certain groups, the face of which is Hugo Chavez. The tools of the attack are not military, the goal is not a military victory. Rather, the tools are manipulation of the media story by means of false news and control of the media news cycle, and the goal is to make Honduras ungovernable, so that the smuggling of cocaine to the north can be carried out cheap and safely – relatively speaking. Only the cocaine economy can explain the vast investment that is being made in this attack on Honduras institutions of government. We are talking about tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars “invested” in destroying Honduras. This is a cold war precisely as Adolf Hitler intended when he coined the term.

Understanding their goal we can predict their strategy. There is no doubt in my mind that they will write their story-lines and edit their news coverage in advance of the release of the report from the truth commission. Once the report is out they will quickly scan it for a quote that they can use to “support” their story, and then quickly go out with their version of what the commission actually said. By being quick, they hope that the other media, like AP, AFP, EFE, and Reuters, will run with their version instead of taking the time to actually read the report.

Judging from how those news agencies have acted in the past, I’d predict that the strategy is going to work.

The only ones that can prevent this willful distortion of the commissions report is the commission itself. If they desire for the truth to be known, they have to manage the news themselves.

The most important counter-measure is to remove the possibility for the enemy of Honduras to act. The opportunity for the enemy is in the moment when the report is released. The mitigation must therefore be to not release the report all at once at the end. A range of methods can be used, and some have already started.

Social media: The commission is already using social media to communicate with people, thus gradually diffusing information about the process and gaining confidence.

Radio: They could cooperate with radio shows to discuss subjects on air, taking questions and even discussing with people who call in. This, too, will gradually diffuse their findings and undermine the chances for the enemy to spin the story when the final report comes.

Leaks: By leaking findings in advance, the enemy is denied the chance to spin, or lie, about these facts later.

Galleys: Provide copies of the report to select news outlets about a week in advance of the official release date so that they have time to read it and write their own, accurate, stories.

What is essential here is to understand that some media are not news outlets, but propaganda organizations. They must be treated accordingly. While they pretend to be news outlets and claim to be protected by the rules of journalistic freedom, they really are the enemy in disguise. It is a tricky business to on the one hand not violate their rights, and on the other hand not allow them to play the game they want. It’s like a game of chess, but it’s not a game, what is at stake is human lives. Millions of human lives.

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