Saving Honduras’ Democracy

The supporters of the deposed president Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, self-labeled the “resistance,” have now united around a policy of not acknowledging the constitutionally mandated elections on November 29th. Furthermore, they use thugs to disrupt election meetings and to destroy campaign material. Strangely, they only do so for the candidate of Zelaya’s own Liberal party, his former vice president, Elvin Santos.

Instead of the constitutional elections, they want a new constitution, the very plan for which Zelaya was removed from office by the Supreme Court of Justice.

This means that Zelaya’s supporters are fundamentally opposed to the liberal democracy and to the Rechtsstaat, “el Estado de Ley” in Spanish. Like their financial backer Hugo Chávez, president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, they apparently want to replace the existing democratic institutions with new ones.

Furthermore, Chávez, and now Zelaya in his exile, are using language that is sharply critical of the traditional elite (to which Zelaya himself belongs). Rather than focusing on bad policies, they focus on “bad people.” That does not belong in a democracy and Rechtsstaat, and is more reminiscent of the racism of times past.

In an article published in August of 2006, professor Francis Fukuyama said about himself and Hugo Chávez: “Early on in Hugo Chávez’s political career, the Venezuelan president attacked my notion that liberal democracy together with a market economy represents the ultimate evolutionary direction for modern societies — the “end of history.” When asked what lay beyond the end of history, he offered a one-word reply: ‘Chavismo.’ ” The Washington Post, The End of Chávez: History’s Against Him (Francis Fukuyama) Sunday, August 6, 2006 at B01.

Chávez has even said, “Liberal democracy is no good, its time has passed, new models must be invented, new formulas….

Dismissing liberal democracy and market economy is something Chávez has in common with the National Socialists and Adolf Hitler. In fact, in 2007, congressional leaders in Brazil referred to Chávez as a “cheap Hitler and Mussolini,” a “dictator in disguise,” and a threat “to peace on the continent”. The reaction came after Chávez took an opposition TV-station off the air.

Fascist Criticism

Two central tenets of modern society were rejected by the Fascists in the 1930’s: Democracy, and that all people are of equal value and shall have their rights protected under the law. In other words, they rejected liberal democracy.

Democracy was criticized by them for providing some power to small groups seen as outsiders in society. For the National Socialists, those who got power that they should not have had were ethnic groups, such as Jews and Gypsies. For Marxists it is instead the rich, the elite, the privileged that get undue power in a democracy. Civil liberties were criticized for much the same reasons, their opinion being that people are not equal, and that the “others” should not have the same rights as “we”. When Socialists made difference between people and people, George Orwell wrote, “All animals are equal, but pigs are more equal than other animals.”

Note that both Nazis and Communists are Socialists, and both see the world as “we” versus “them”. The difference is just the criteria for dividing people into groups. For Communists the division is along class lines, for National Socialists it is along ethnic lines.

This is why Hitler could cooperate with industrialists such as Thyssen (as long as they were not Jews), creating an alliance between the Nazi state and big capital that actually resembled Fascism. In spite of this ethnic focus, he had no trouble creating alliances with non-Aryan countries, as he saw it, such as Italy and Japan. Apparently the basis for that was the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Hugo Chávez

President Chávez in Venezuela has in common with Hitler that they both were lower military officers. They both made failed attempts at coups before resorting to a “legal” strategy to gain power. They are both “outsiders” in their countries (Hitler was born in Austria-Hungary, not Germany; Chávez ethnical roots places him low down in the unwritten social hierarchy of Venezuela). They were both democratically elected but never with a majority of the votes. They both set up parallel institutions (Chávez’s “new democracy”; Hitler’s party hierarchy) and gradually dismantled the institutions of the liberal democracy.

Thus, neither one undermined the Rule of Law, but instead redefined Law to no longer include the institutions and principles of a liberal democracy. During Hitler’s time the Universal Declaration of Human Rights did not yet exist—it was created in reaction to Hitler—but Chávez is now bound by it, so there is no reason to expect the latter to carry out the same atrocities as the former. Each one is doing what he can get away with within the law, but it is clear that neither one of them has any built-in moral respect for civil liberties, democracy, or even peace. They both engage in open belligerent speech to arouse the emotions of their respective followers.

Manuel Zelaya

Former president Zelaya in Honduras has a sharply different background in that he comes from the elite, a land-owner with a large estate in the cattle-raising highland province of Olancho. His father, by the same name, went to prison for his role in the murder of over a dozen peaceful demonstrators, including several priests during the previous military dictatorship.

From September 13 to November 11, 1827, a José Jerónimo Zelaya was leader of the state of Honduras, assigned by the National Constituting Assembly. This was during the time of the Central American union, which ended around 1839, but the re-establishment of which remained official Honduran policy for almost a century.

Another José Zelaya took power in Nicaragua on July 25, 1893, and held on to it until December 17, 1909. It was also his dream to re-unite Central America. His policy was liberal, not to say neo-liberal, and after 30 years of conservative policies in Nicaragua with stability, his years at the helm ended that stability. The family name is thus as much old-wealth elite as it gets.

Manuel Zelaya was elected president in Honduras on the ticket of the Liberal party. After a few years the global financial crisis led to economical difficulties. The astronomical oil prices in 2007 were especially difficult, since 80% of the electricity is generated using imported diesel. At that time Zelaya started to deal with Chávez, the contact being facilitated by Zelaya’s foreign minister, Patricia Rodas (herself the daughter of a presidential candidate who never became president since a military coup stopped the elections in 1963).

After Zelaya started dealing with Chávez he began using socialist vocabulary, claiming to help the poor (although the costly programs he bragged about were never turned into law or financed, since he neglected the budget process for a long time before being deposed).

Changing the Constitution of Honduras

Importantly, Zelaya also started using the rhetoric that the rich elite, the “oligarchs”, have control over the state through the democratic institutions. For that reason, he argues, the constitution has to be changed. This is very significant, and something that has largely been ignored.

The debate has focused on how he wanted to change the constitution, and the paragraphs cut in stone. Those are five paragraphs that center on not allowing the president to be re-elected. The argument goes that any change to the constitution that does not involve that matter can be initiated by the president himself, so when he suggested a constituting constitutional assembly, the only reasonable reason would be to change the text so that the president can be re-elected—and thus, so that he himself could be re-elected.

However, Zelaya’s counter-argument is that the referendum on creating a constitutional assembly (the so-called quarta urna, forth ballot box) would not be held until together with the next presidential elections, so there is no way he could get re-elected. The counter-argument to this is that Zelaya would not have played by the books, once the forged results of the “opinion poll” were in on the eve of June 28th, but that’s another story.

Let us instead look at what the changes are that he himself hold up as the reason for changing the Constitution: Manuel Zelaya claims that the institutions of the liberal democracy are tools for the rich elite to control the country. That is why a new constitution is needed in Honduras, according to him and according to Hugo Chávez.

Zelaya is in effect, according to himself, aiming to dismantle the liberal democracy—the institutions of the state—and he is singling out a group as the “enemy”: The rich elite, now with the new name “Golpistas,” ‘coupsters’. His followers are implementing his policy by spraying “Golpistas” on the homes and businesses of those they dislike, just like the Nazi brownshirts harassed the Jews.

Suppose he was telling the truth about his justification for changing the constitution; that his intention was not to change the presidential terms, but to do away with the institutions of the liberal democracy, like Chávez has done in Venezuela, and others of his ALBA-partners have done in their countries. Many of the Zelaya-apologists seem to accept this argument, but is it valid?

Logical Flaw

Those who demand Zelaya’s return to the presidency tacitly accept the argument by Chávez and his disciple Zelaya, that…

  1. the institutions of the liberal democracy are undemocratic, which
  2. made it acceptable for Zelaya to use unconstitutional means to change the constitution, since it was done in the name of democracy, and
  3. hence they demand that the “democratically elected” president Zelaya be reinstated.

However, if Zelaya was “democratically elected” then there is democracy, which invalidates point 1 above. There is thus nothing that motivates unconstitutional methods to change the constitution, why also point 2 falls by the wayside.

The argument is thus self-contradictory, the most obvious way in which an argument can be erroneous. If one accepts that Zelaya was “democratically elected,” which everyone does, then one cannot accept that he may legally violate the constitution and the institutions of the liberal democracy. One cannot both have the cake and eat it.

It seems that his basic objection is that he as president cannot do what he wants. Actually, he is not supposed to. It is the whole point of the checks and balances that he wants to do away with, like Chávez already has.

The Future

Although Honduras has saved itself from the immediate threat of having its liberal democracy and democratic institutions destroyed and replaced by a more or less fascistoid or nazistoid state, Chávez with all his other puppet regimes are still there (he bribes them big time with so-called ALBA loans, which is why I call them puppets). Analysis of the fascist states in Europe has shown that the basic dynamics behind such societies is a mob rule, in which the mob must always be kept strongly emotionally engaged in something that upsets them greatly, so that they do not get idle and start complaining about the real problems of their everyday life. There must always be some project, some outer enemy, or both, and the leader will always use hyperbole in his more or less regular diatribes.

Chávez has institutionalized his diatribes in the form of a multi hour TV show every Sunday, called “Aló Presidente” (‘Hello President’). In it he attacks leaders for foreign nations, makes cheap jokes, hires and fires ministers, and orders his subordinates to disobey court orders and laws.

He is encouraging the poor of Colombia to make revolution and to join Venezuela. He is talking about Greater Colombia (the previously united northern South America), and others are talking about a reunited Central America. He is apparently supporting the narco-guerilla FARC in Colombia, providing them with anti-tank missiles from Sweden. He is threatening war against Colombia for accepting US help in fighting the drug lords, and Honduras for deposing his Quisling, Manuel Zelaya.

Chávez’s tone has for years been so exaggerated that it is hard to imagine what else he can do to keep people focused on his agenda. He has already ordered all the stations to air all his appearances. Can he order his citizens to watch TV? Of course, but if he doesn’t have anything to say that will engage them, it will only backfire.

He can also close down opposition media, and he has been working on that for years. There is strong opposition within Venezuela. Perhaps some think that to be a difference to the Third Reich. Actually, it is not. Strong criticism was allowed also against Nazi policies, at least until the start of the war.

PS. Chávez is reportedly interested in buying 100 tanks, 3 subs, 10 war helicopters, and a “large number” of fighting vehicles from Russia. Update: This includes modern 300 mm “Stalin organs,” i.e., rocket launchers.

PS.PS. Russia apparently has agreed to selling those weapons to Venezuela, and furthermore, they will soon deliver missiles with a range of 185 miles (300 km). That is too short to reach major Colombian cities from Venezuela, but far enough to reach Miami from Cuba. By the way, during his recent trip to Iran and Russia, Chávez was pursuing nuclear technology. As he said, his nuclear intentions are every bit as peaceful as those of Ahmedinejad’s Iran. (As I was looking away I did not see if he was winking as he said that.)

2 thoughts on “Saving Honduras’ Democracy”

  1. If you’re trying to equate José Zelaya, the famous Nicaraguan caudillo, and Manuel Zelaya of Honduras – you are sadly mistaken.

    Just because his name is the same, doesn’t imply a thing. Also, if you wish to point out that Zelaya’s exist in abundance in Latin America, go for it. It’s like comparing Lyndon Johnson to Andrew Johnson – a century apart, but THEY SHARE A LAST NAME!

    Nice try though.

  2. Daniel, I don’t know what if any relationship there is, but according to Wikipedia (é_Santos_Zelaya), his father José Maria Zelaya Fernandez was born in Olancho, Honduras, the same Departamento that Manuel Zelaya comes from, so chances are more than remote that they are of the same family, considering that the Spaniards have been in Honduras for over 4 centuries.

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