Tag Archives: Zelaya

World pushes Central America towards disaster

Through their response, the nations of the world are contributing to pushing the Central American nations of Nicaragua and Honduras towards disaster. They are already the poorest and second poorest countries of Latin America, and they are both in deep political crises of credibility in the rule of law.

The Nicaraguan president, former revolutionary leader Daniel Ortega, has stacked the Supreme Court illegally, is altering the Constitution illegally, and wants to run for re-election illegally. Yet the reaction from the world is almost non-existing.

The former Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, tried to stack the Supreme Court but was stopped by the president of Congress, Roberto Micheletti, tried to alter the Constitution but was stopped by the Supreme Court, and tried to make himself a dictator but was deposed by a near unanimous vote in Congress and the Supreme Court. The reaction of the world was to demand his reinstatement.

The stance of the world, including of course the U.S., seriously undermines the faith in the rule of law in Central America. The caudillo wannabe is rewarded, the democratic institutions are chastised.

If the world wanted to create chaos, conflict, even war, they couldn’t have devised a more efficient strategy than the one they are now implementing in Central America.

Several Viking time laws start with the statement “Countries are Built with Laws.” It reflects an understanding that functioning, peaceful societies require that there are rules that are universally accepted, and honored since there is confidence that they are enforced. What is going on in Central America is an undermining of these sentiments, since the presidents that attack the rule of law are seemingly rewarded, and the institutions and persons who defend the rule of law are punished by the world.

Yet, it may all be unintentional. As they say in Washington, never blame on malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

In the case of Zelaya, it is apparent to everyone that a crime was committed when he was sent to Costa Rica. Not knowing the background, the only possible conclusion would be that it was a military coup d’état. However, now that we all have had ample time to study the background, it is equally clear that the Supreme Court of Honduras had the legal authority to arrest the president; that they had due cause to arrest the president; and that they could relieve the president from office during the trials.

They issued an arrest order for the president, not an expatriation order. Expatriating him was a separate crime. Two wrongs don’t make one right. Yet the world demanded that Zelaya be reinstated. From a foreign perspective it seemed like a politically correct stance, not to say the only possible stance. I cannot criticize those who took that stance, since I would have done the same in their positions.

Yet, from a Honduran perspective it was impossible, since it would have meant disaster to reinstate Zelaya. He would rapidly have attacked those that acted to arrest him. To allow him to be reinstated and wield power would have been suicidal for the republic. Thus, I cannot criticize Micheletti either. Both sides did what they had to do.

Was there no possible compromise? The legally acceptable solution, to both sides, should have been to have Zelaya return to Honduras to face jail; to take up the process where it was interrupted. For him to turn himself over to the custody of the military, be brought before a judge, and the judge deciding if he should be removed from office or reinstated. In fact, this is exactly what Micheletti was proposing in the negotiations: That the Supreme Court decide on his reinstatement or not.

However, Zelaya responded by demanding that Congress take that decision, and Micheletti relented. As we know, Congress voted almost unanimously not to reinstate Zelaya.

In summary, although the process went bad when the military expatriated Zelaya, it was brought back on track with the Guaymuras agreement, where the topic of his reinstatement was decided (although it technically should have been done by the Supreme Court, one can argue that Zelaya gave up that right when he himself insisted that Congress should decide instead of the court).

Yet this resolution to the legal situation has not brought back peace and stability to Honduras. Why? It seems the largest problem is the lack of faith in the rule of law in Honduras.

It is very detrimental that other countries accuse the Supreme Court of violating the law.

For instance, the fact that the U.S. has revoked tourist visas for all members of the Supreme Court is a clear vote of lack of confidence in the highest judicial institution in Honduras. If the U.S. doesn’t trust the Supreme Court in Honduras, why would Hondurans? And if they don’t trust the Supreme Court, why would they obey the laws at all? It promotes the attitude that crime pays. And it does, in Honduras. The attitude is, I’m told, that if you don’t stuff your pockets illegally when you have a chance, you’re an idiot.

This attitude is reinforced by the policy of the U.S. and other countries.

So what to do instead?

First, the main principle in dealing with Honduras and Nicaragua must be to reinforce the faith in the rule of law, based, of course, on their domestic jurisprudence and experience, not on that of the U.S. All aspects of law enforcement and justice, including human rights, must be given top priority in institution-building support. This should be done with respect for the local conditions and experiences, to be effective.

A second point is respect for the democratic institutions, including direct diplomatic contacts that bypass the executive branch and go directly to the judicial and legislative branches. Name-calling must of course stop. It is so unprofessional for a staffer in the U.S. Senate to call Honduran Supreme Court justices and Congressmen “golpistas”.

A third point is how to deal with wannabe dictators. The OAS should intervene in the case of Nicaragua today. Once the court is stacked, the rule of law has ceased to exist. One cannot call Nicaragua a democracy any more; the coup d’état has already been sown and all that remains is to harvest it. The world should make clear that it will not accept having Ortega on the ballot, that it will lead to harsh sanctions.

The last point is to engage in the economy of these countries. Right now an environmental disaster is sailing up in Honduras. A beautiful and unique lake, Lago de Yojoa, is being destroyed by unsustainable fish farming. Within a few years the lake will die. Today it is still possible to develop eco-tourism as an alternate source of income in the community, but once the lake dies, so does that possibility. Yet the market forces inevitably drive the development towards that looming disaster. “Adult supervision” is desperately needed, but nothing can be done without risk capital willing to invest in tourism development, thus producing an opposing force to the one that is pressuring for unsustainable exploitation. For this to happen there must be stability and faith in the rule of law. See point 1.

Among those who benefit from the present policy is the military-industrial complex, who get to sell more weapons and security systems when the time comes to put out the fire in Central America, that the present policy promotes. Furthermore, those that sell systems for border security benefit, since ever more Central Americans are destined to migrate illegally to the U.S. Those who hire illegals in the U.S. will also benefit, because the supply of cheap labor will continue. Also the drug cartels in Mexico will benefit, since they can exploit the migrants and force them to work like mules, smuggling cocaine to the U.S. (and if they refuse, they are shot).

As you see, much is at stake also for the U.S. of A. It is time to wisen up.

Footnote: Former US ambassador to Honduras, Charles A Ford, wrote an analysis in June this year in which he – in my opinion – correctly and succinctly described the situation. Read it!

Parlacen does not give Zelaya immunity

Honduras deposed president Mel Zelaya has now been sworn in as a member of Parlacen. Some believe that this will give him immunity in Honduras. That is wrong.

A deputy in Parlacen has, in the other nations than his own, the same status as a diplomat. In his own country he has the same status as a member of the national parliament. The diputados in the Congreso Nacional in Honduras have no immunity. As we all know from last year, not even the president of Honduras has immunity.

Thus, Zelaya will be arrested if he returns to Honduras, since he is still wanted by the law – diputado o no.

On Jan 25 this year I wrote in “Zelaya’s flawed plan for immunity” that nobody can be a member in Parlacen who is not eligible to be a member of the national parliament of his own country. Given the arrest orders against Zelaya he is not, as far as I can understand, eligible to serve in the Congreso Nacional in Honduras. Thus, by swearing him in as a member of Parlacen, the regional congress has in effect said that they do not recognize the administration of Porfirio Lobo in action (only on paper). It appears to be a violation of the treaty. But that’s another story.

Honduras: The Big Picture

The deposing of the president of Honduras on June 28, 2009, has been interpreted in different ways by different groups. In this article I would like to offer the bigger perspective, and show how each of the other discourses fit into the bigger picture.

The world stage 2010. USA and military allies in dark green, ALBA in red, former member Honduras in white, informal allies in orange, and Latin American democratic ALBA-friendly governments in pink. Blue stars mark some US military bases, and the flash is the current war in Afghanistan.
The world stage 2010. USA and military allies in dark green, ALBA in red, former member Honduras in white, informal allies in orange, and Latin American democratic ALBA-friendly governments in pink (click for full resolution). Blue stars mark some US military bases, and the flash is the current war in Afghanistan. Dark grey indicates isolated dictatorships, and light green are non-classified.

Background

Honduras is the second poorest country in Latin America, after Nicaragua, its southern neighbour. A large part of the GDP comes from low-cost manufacturing for the US market, with bananas no longer being number one. The majority of the population lives below the poverty line. The other year, the Swedish government classified Honduras as the second most unequal country in the world, after Guatemala, its western neighbour. The present democratic constitution is from 1981. In that year an election was held during the last military rule, and the democratically elected president took office in 1982. The constitution is the longest surviving one in Honduras history, and it contains strict formulations to make new coups impossible. Yet, in 2009 the president was deposed. Honduras says it was because he tried to do a coup d’état and ran afoul of those strict prohibitions, while the rest of the world says that his deposing in itself was a coup d’état.

The arguments

Zelaya’s original argument

President Zelaya, elected in 2005, wanted to help the poor people. They were being suppressed by the rich, and they had no democratic influence. The only way in which they could get influence was to write a new constitution, by holding a Constituting Constitutional Assembly (and thus throw out the old constitution).

Comment: this is exactly what Chávez and several other presidents in ALBA have done.

Counter-argument

Nobody has explained in which way the existing constitution is to blame for the poverty, nor has anyone proposed what the new constitution would look like, or why a constituting assembly is required. The existing constitution can be changed by the elected representatives in Congress, and the president can propose changes – but he never did! There is only one relevant article that cannot be changed: The prohibition for the president to be reelected. Thus, the purpose of Zelaya’s policy must have been to enable reelection. Why is this important? Read on!

An alternative point of view

The poverty is rather a result of corruption, crime, a dysfunctional legal system, human rights violations, resulting in a somewhat failed State. The way out is to strengthen the rule of law, and the respect for the law. To overthrow the constitution, a patently unconstitutional act, would be totally counter-productive. Instead, the deposing of Zelaya by the rule of law was a good thing, that strengthened people’s belief in the State. The fact that many of his corrupt accomplices are now being prosecuted is a step in the right direction, but the fact that the present president is trying to stop the courts from doing this job is very discouraging. There is unfortunately a misunderstanding in the international community; they are effectively working to undermine the rule of law in Honduras, by pressuring Lobo to pressure the courts not to follow the law as they see it, but rather as the international community sees it (though they are no experts on Honduran jurisprudence).

The accusation that the US was behind the “coup”

This is based on two things: First that the US has supported military coups in Latin America and elsewhere in the past, and second that the US has a military base in Honduras (they are allowed to operate from the Palmerola, aka Soto Cano, military airport). Those making the accusation claim that the US acted to preserve its military base.

However, this is ridiculous on the face of it. First, since it was no coup according to Honduras. Second, since USA denies any involvement. Third, since even those having been accused of being behind the “coup” claim that USA made it clear in advance that Obama would not recognize the interim president, no matter how legal the procedure to replace Zelaya was. This stance was formulated by Senator John Kerry, according to my source. [UPDATE: A Senate staffer informed me that Kerry cannot have been the one to set this policy since they were not informed about the plans to depose Zelaya in advance. On the other hand, there are indications that the US ambassador to Honduras, Llorens, was personally strongly opposed to his country recognizing any interim president replacing Zelaya, also before Zelaya was deposed.]

Although in Kerry’s defense [or Lloren’s], he might just have been under the impression that there was no legal way to depose Zelaya, but that they were talking about a coup, the reason being that Honduras does not have the institution of impeachment. Rather, the president can be prosecuted and dealt with by the courts just like any other person.

ALBA

The arguments of Zelaya sound plausible for many, but they are not his real motivation. During the election campaign he received some $50 million from a South American country. They were transferred via a bank in El Salvador. Once in office he sent them back, but the money was returned. The message was clear: We don’t want your money, we want you to follow our orders.

Your guess is as good as mine as to who the money came from.

Chávez has oil millions, he started the ALBA political block, and he is anti-USA. Someone also contributed money to the election campaign of Rafael Correa in Ecuador, who once elected threw out the US military base from that country, changed the constitution so he could be reelected, and joined ALBA. When Evo Morales was elected president in Bolivia he, too, changed the constitution and joined ALBA. Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua also joined ALBA, and plans to change the laws so he can be reelected. Chávez, of course, already has changed “his” constitution.

ALBA is an anti-USA alliance named after Simon Bolivar. It has been suggested to become a military alliance, and it belongs in the far left politically. Although Chávez calls it a socialist revolution, it is probably more accurate to call it communist. They are armed by Russia and have contracted to get nuclear technology from Iran.

The hidden agenda

International politics is about influence. One way to get that is to project power. As is evident from the above map, USA and Russia (following the tradition of the Soviet Union) use different methods. Look for instance at the Guantanamo base on Cuba. USA retained that after the war with Spain. It is thus irrelevant who is running Cuba at present. Just like the colonial powers of  centuries past had fortresses around the coasts of Africa and India, surrounded by other countries, USA has military bases in other countries surrounded by sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile nations.

Russia does not. Instead, they have “sold” top modern fighter jets to Venezuela, apparently intended to be operated by Russian pilots if they are ever needed.

As we see, the US strategy does not depend on the colour of the government in the country. It can be a democracy that shifts policy every 4 years, doesn’t matter. USA maintains control of its military resources.

Russia, on the other hand, is using a strategy that hinges on that the government remains faithful to Moscow. This does not work well in a country where the president cannot be reelected.

I think I need to say no more. It is pretty obvious why the Honduran constitution had to change, from Moscow’s perspective (and this explains why an alleged Russian agent was spreading anti-Honduran propaganda in the US press, doesn’t it?).

You know, I suspect that the real strategist behind this is Fidel Castro. The whole game plan seems so based on the Cold War strategy that he knew so well. And no wonder he wanted Barack Obama elected president; he must have figured out that he would not dare to stop him by using a military coup, so by just playing Obama into a corner where any attempt of stopping Zelaya would even appear to be a military coup, Chávez would win. However, he didn’t know the Hondurans, the proudest little nation in the world last year.

Honduras security

The attackers have far from given up. They try to get the head of the supreme court deposed so that they can alter the composition of the court. They also want Zelaya’s corruption charges counted as political crimes, so that they will be covered by the political amnesty extended to all in January 2010 (against the will of the vast majority of the Honduran people, but forced on them by the international community as a condition for recognition). With those two things in place, Zelaya could return and continue his work with overthrowing the form of government, whether he is working as an agent for Venezuela, Cuba, or Russia itself.

Honduras value lies in two fields: First, that they could get rid of a US base there. Second, that they could make the country a base for themselves instead.

It is clear that the presence of the US military base does not make Honduras safer; quite the opposite. It is the very reason why attacking the country’s democracy and sovereignty is so attractive for the communists.

In light of this, one might ask if it wouldn’t be in the interest of both Honduras and USA to discontinue the Palmerola base in Honduras, and instead equip and train the Honduran military to carry out the necessary drug traffic control. Or perhaps some other arrangement, as long as it does not involve a US base on Honduran soil, because that is a democratic weakness. A strong democracy in Honduras, that does not attract attacks from anti-democratic forces, also seems in the US interest.

Another key factor is to decrease the social tensions in Honduras. The elite has got the message. They have understood how their behaviour has undermined the safety of their country. The time for compromise and a new social contract is now. The poor have never had a better opportunity to negotiate, but they need to talk to their countrymen, and not listen to the foreign agitators and their Quislings.

Honduras is at a cross-roads. There is a good way to take, and a bad. But one thing they should not do. They should not listen to the international community. They should sit down in a closed room and make peace between themselves, and then stand united without any foreign influence. That is the meaning of free, independent, and sovereign.

Är SIDA på regeringens sida?

Uppdatering 2010-07-02: Vid förnyad kontroll av Sidas online artikel, senast besökt 23 juni, konstaterades att en redigering och ett tillägg (i kursiv) gjorts den 28 juni. Det lyder nu:

“Sverige, liksom huvuddelen av EU:s medlemmar och de flesta andra länder i Latinamerika, erkände inte den nya regeringen eftersom man ansåg att Honduras först måste återgå till vad som kallas den konstitutionella ordningen, det vill säga att Zelaya först måste återinträda som president och få göra klart sin period innan en ny president kan tillträda.”
I juni 2010 lever nu den avsatte presidenten Zelaya i exil. Sverige, liksom huvuddelen av EU:s medlemmar och andra givarländer, har erkänt Lobos regering som legitim och utvecklingssamarbetet har därmed återupptagits med Honduras.

Uppdatering 2010-07-01 19:18 ET: Regeringen har nu beslutat att tillsätta en ny styrelse för Sida, rapporterar DN. Detta sedan generaldirektören, Anders Nordström, sparkades i maj. Sista meningen nedan verkar onekligen träffande. Jag har fått känslan av att Sida har bedrivit en politik långt till vänster om den hos regeringen, inte minst vad gäller Honduras. Vi får se om det blir någon ändring nu. Det skulle ju inte ha varit helt fel om organisationen hade använt några av sina kontakter i Honduras för att hjälpa till i den politiska krisen förra året.

Ursprunglig post 2010-06-23 14:24 ET: Idag besökte jag SIDAs website för att se vad de skriver om Honduras. Som bekant försökte president Manuel Zelaya genomföra en statskupp där förra året, och satte sig över alla de andra statsmakterna. Han beslöt starta en process för att kullkasta det demokratiska statsskicket, göra sig av med landets grundlag, och han struntade högönskligen och uttryckligen i de order som högsta domstolen gav honom. Zelaya hade stöd i denna statskupp av Venezuelas president Hugo Chavez, själv en gammal militärkuppmakare, men också av sekreteraren för Organisationen för Amerikanska Stater, Insulza (som flydde från Chile efter den blodiga militärkuppen mot Allende); och, visade det sig, även av ordföranden för FNs generalförsamling, den gamla sandinistarevolutionären D’Escoto.

Den ideologiska bakgrunden för Zelayas agerande kan man läsa om i denna artikel ifrån Nicaragua, publicerad i augusti 2007 (den är på engelska). Vid den tidpunkten hade vänsterflygeln i Honduras liberala parti, kallade patricierna efter den ideologiskt tongivande personen, utrikesministern Patricia Rodas, redan blivit totalt politiskt isolerade i landet. Det heter att Zelaya styr presidentpalatset som en hacienda (vilket bekräftats för mig av flera som jobbade där; vad det betyder i form av auktotritära metoder och våldsbruk kan man se om man tittar på en typisk mexikansk såpopera), men att han inte hade något som helst inflytande utanför själva presidentpalatset. Rodas är sandinistaromantiker. Hennes mamma är från Nicaragua, hon växte upp där under revolutionen. Hennes pappa höll på att vinna presidentvalet i Honduras 1963, och det var för att hindra honom från att bli president som den blodiga militärkuppen genomfördes i oktober det året. Det har fått Rodas att ha en nagel i sidan till de som stödde kuppen, bland dem fadern till liberala partiets starke man och fd president, Flores. Micheletti tillhör Flores-falangen av det liberala partiet, den liberala falangen så att säga, till skillnad från patriciernas vänsterflygel.

Efter det att artikeln skrevs blev utvecklingen så som författaren förutspådde: Den enda chansen för patricierna att kunna behålla något inflytande efter 2009 års val var att liera sig med Hugo Chavez i Venezuela, och hans sk Bolivarianska Revolution i Latinamerika. Chavez militärkupp misslyckades som bekant, men senare blev han demokratiskt vald till president. Efter det ändrade han grundlagen så att han kunde bli omvald. Venezuela är nu på väg att bli en socialistisk diktatur. Företag och jordbruk socialiseras hej vilt utan ersättning till de rättmätiga ägarna. Statens finanser är katastrofalt dåliga. Landet rustar militärt trots att det inte har någon reell fiende. De har inte heller några utbildade soldater till att sköta den toppmoderna ryska utrustningen, utan i händelse av väpnad konflikt är de helt beroende av att utländska soldar kommer in – kanske ryska, kanske kubanska, kanske iranska. Chavez har nära militära förbindelser med alla tre.

Liksom Chavez, och senare den av SIDA tydligen uppskattade presidenten i Bolivien, Evo Morales, och även president Correa i Ecuador, försökte Zelaya ändra grundlagen så att presidenten kunde bli omvald. Honduras grundlag hade emellertid ett mycket starkare förbud mot omval än dessa länders; att ens föreslå en förändring av det förbudet leder till att den som föreslår det omedelbart upphör i sitt förtroendeämbete. Även presidenten. (Boliviens nya grundlag röstades igenom utan riktig debatt mitt under en pågående eldstrid, och långt från huvudstaden.)

Zelaya försökte köra över kongressen och högsta domstolen genom att få alla att tro att han hade militären på sin sida. Den som håller i den laddade pistolen kan ju strunta i alla lagar och regler. Men den 24 juni 2009 sprack illusionen, då militären öppet sa att de inte kunde stödja presidentens plan för en olaglig folkomröstning den 28 juni. Zelaya avskedade då militärchefen, men högsta domstolen förklarade den 25 juni avskedandet olagligt. Militären hade ju bara följt lagen och domstolens order – till skillnad från presidenten. Den 25 begärde riksåklagaren presidenten häktad för hans för alla uppenbara domstolstrots, och den 26 utfärdade högsta domstolen häktningsordern till militären. Zelayas statskupp hade därmed stoppats av de demokratiska institutionerna. Den 28 juni i gryningen exekverade militären ordern, men tog av säkerhetsskäl presidenten ur landet istället för att sätta honom i något av de av lagen godkända häktena.

Riksåklagaren väckte senare talan mot militären för detta myndighetsmissbruk, men högsta domstolen ogillade talan eftersom de hade haft rikets säkerhet i åtanke. Honduras fortsatte att styras enligt grundlagen utan något som helst avbrott. Alla tjänstemän som inte hade varit delaktiga i kuppförsöket kvarstod, medan de som hade skuld blev åtalade. Som ny president utsågs den som grundlagen anvisade, i detta fall Roberto Micheletti. Han ledde landet på ett föredömligt sätt under 7 månader, trots att inget land i världen erkände hans regim. Chavez, Ortega och Castro skickade hejdukar och dollar till Honduras för att skapa oordning. De skapade “martyrer” och anklagade sedan landets lagliga regering för att bryta mot de mänskliga rättigheterna. Bortsett från dessa länder och deras allierade så fick dock dessa lögner inte det genomslag som de hade väntat. Honduras under president Micheletti fick hjältestatus bland många latinamerikaner, och han får fortsatt hedersbetygelser för sitt försvar av demokratin.

Det står alltså helt klart att den som försökte göra en kupp i Honduras var presidenten, Manuel Zelaya, och de som stoppade kuppen och försvarade grundlagen var de demokratiska institutionerna. Om Zelayas grundlagsbrott kan det inte råda någon tvekan. De som hävdar annorlunda måste kalla samtliga Honduras demokratiska institutioner “kuppmakare”. De måste säga att “högsta domstolen är kuppmakare”. De måste säga att “kongressen är kuppmakare”. Därmed måste de säga, indirekt, att “folket är kuppmakare”. Det finns de som gör allt detta, och bristen på sunt förnuft hos dem är så absurd att man häpnar.

Efter att den nyvalde Porfirio Lobo tillträtt som president har alla länder erkänt hans regim, utom några kommunistaffilierade länder i Latinamerika. På SIDAs webplats står det dock fortfarande, idag den 23 juni 2010, att Sverige inte erkänner Honduras utan kräver att “Zelaya först måste återinträda som president”. Det är ganska anmärkningsvärt, eftersom det är fullständigt grundlagsvidrigt för en president i Honduras att sitta mer än 4 år, och Zelayas period gick ut den 27 januari 2010. Dessutom står det i artikeln att den uppdaterades den 17 maj 2010, långt efter den 27 januari således.

Jag frågar mig därför om SIDA bara har missat att hålla koll på fakta, eller om de medvetet bedriver en annan politik än svenska regeringen.

Ett år efter att Zelaya avsattes

Allt väsentligt har redan skrivits på denna blogg, så jag nöjer mig med att sammanfatta läget med en bild:

Manuel Zelaya åkte inte i fängelse utan fick en gyllene fallskärm. Han lever nu i lyx utomlands.
Manuel Zelaya åkte inte i fängelse utan fick en gyllene fallskärm. Han lever nu i lyx utomlands.

Länkar:

Första artikeln på denna blogg. Den och de närmast följande visar hur sökandet efter sanningen tog sig ut den första veckan. Jag lyckades få tag på dokument till min blogg som de flesta inom media och andra granskare inte hade tillgång till. Se också högerkolumnen och de där länkade dokumenten.

Redaktionerna föll för propagandan – en debattartikel på Second Opinion som jag skrev för att försöka få till stånd en självkritisk analys i svenska media. BREAKING NEWS: En av de 11 i USA arresterade spionerna var en av dem som spred anti-honduransk propaganda, genom tidningen El Diario i New York. Det avslöjar att Ryssland och Venezuela samarbetar inte bara militärt och med kärnkraft, utan även inom propagandans område.

Bilder från Zelayas självvalda exil.

Spansk websajt Hondudiario från i fjor med nyheten att en konsultrapport beställd av FN drog slutsatsen att avsättandet av Zelaya var lagligt, och att det alltså inte var en kupp (FN har inte agerat på något sätt på den rapporten).

USAs kongressbiblioteks juridiska rapport som konkluderade att avsättandet var lagligt (USA har inte agerat på något sätt på den rapporten).

Human Rights Foundations rapport som kom fram till att Honduras högsta domstol hade laglig rätt och laga skäl att avsätta Zelaya.

Amerikanskhonduransk blogg, på engelska, med ett ganska typiskt perspektiv.

Blogg, på spanska, av en honduranskvenezolansk specialist på grundlag, Dr. Alvaro Albornoz, i vilken han poängterar betydelsen av att i Honduras separationen mellan statsmakterna fungerade som tänkt, vilket ger nytt hopp åt världens alla förtryckta folk.

First anniversary of Zelaya’s failed coup d’état

Update 2010-06-28: Today is the anniversary of the deposing of Zelaya. La Gringa in La Ceiba, Honduras, has written a very good blog article summing up the situation. She is unfortunately correct in that the hope and optimism under Micheletti has largely vanished under Lobo. It started when he went to Dominican Republic and signed a deal to let Zelaya leave Honduras, before he even took office. At that point Micheletti withdrew from the limelight, and the people raged against Lobo without the previous president to channel their feelings. That is, however, how democracy works; alternation at power. What those who liked Micheletti can do is to channel their frustration and their desire for change into creating a better political platform, and candidates that support that platform, for the next election. Create a platform that is grassroots-based, that is about realpolitik, concrete actions, not ideals.

MelgoldenparachuteEN

Original post 2010-06-23: On June 24, 2009, the head of the joint chiefs of staff in Honduras, general Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, told his president, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, that the military was unable to carry out the order they had been given to distribute ballots for a referendum on June 28, since the Supreme Court of Justice had issued an injunction against anyone in Honduras participating in that endeavor.

With that statement, Zelaya’s coup d’état came off its tracks. Without the support of the military he could not win. If the military took orders from the Supreme Court, he would not be able to throw out the constitution of the republic as he had planned.

“Mel” Zelaya’s response was to fire general Vasquez, but immediately he did so, the other chiefs of staff handed him their resignations, starting with the head of the army, general Miguel Garcia Padgett. This is public knowledge, but what happened behind closed doors is not.

In the face of this setback, Zelaya understood that he was, to put it bluntly, screwed. He decided to throw in the towel and resign, according to my sources. However, there were powerful business interests who had vested economical interests in him continuing in power. What exactly those interests are I do not know, but given the extensive misappropriation of public funds that has been revealed after his departure from office (he didn’t even have a budget the last year!), one may guess that there were those who wanted certain things to stay hidden. Others might have lucrative oil contracts related to the deal with ALBA (Chavez’s band of countries, who get to buy oil on loan on favorable terms) – they must have understood that if Zelaya left office, the oil would stop flowing, and thus the loans that allegedly didn’t have to be paid back. You all know what that is called in plain English.

The reason Zelaya did not hand in the resignation letter on June 25 was allegedly that he was persuaded not to. He was persuaded to stay and fight, to take a mob to the military to retrieve the ballots, and to completely run roughshod over all the democratic institutions. Whoever persuaded him managed to convince him that if he was only bold enough, the tepid public servants would not dare to stop him.

But they did.

The key persons were anything but tepid. They may have appeared tepid, but when faced with real and imminent danger to the democratic form of government, they stepped up to the challenge and acted like veritable heroes.

Honduras thus managed to preserve its constitution. As we all know, the actual act of removing Zelaya from office was, unfortunately, erroneously interpreted by the whole world as a military coup. An enormous pressure was put on the constitutional interim president, Roberto Micheletti Bain, to effectively abandon Honduras’s sovereignty.

He did not.

Micheletti turned out to be the right person at the right place at the right time. He fiercely defended Honduras’s independence and sovereignty, and made Honduras into a symbol of pride in Latin America. This image, which I first saw on a site in Venezuela, illustrates that beautifully:

Honduran Verification Commission to hold last meeting

Le Heraldo writes today that the Verification Commission, formed as part of the Tegucigalpa/San José-accord, is getting ready to hold its last meeting. The final report is expected in the first two months of 2011.

The purpose of this commission was to verify the implementation of the accord. However, the deposed president, Manuel Zelaya, has refused to cooperate, since he unilaterally declared that the accord was broken by the other side.

It should be pointed out that it is the role of the Verification Commission to judge whether a party broke the accord, and the other party is not at liberty to unilaterally withdraw the way Zelaya did.

According to the article, it was to persuade Zelaya to cooperate with this commission that president Lobo offered to bring him back from the Dominican Republic, and why he put pressure on the judicial branch to drop all charges against him. Well, that failed, Zelaya sneered, and Lobo deserves all criticism he can get for trying to run roughshod over the Constitution and twisting the arms on the justices in the Supreme Court.

Defending a Coup d’État, Can You?

My argument is based on self defense. Just like we don’t call a person who kills his would-be murderor a murderor, we should not call someone a coupster for using the methods of a coup d’état to foil a coup d’état, in order to save the State in an emergency.

A source of confusion, and an origin of different interpretations of the legality of the events in Honduras in June, 2009, is the fact that the term coup d’état (golpe de Estado) is widely used but not defined. I have some news to report on the ongoing activities of the self-denominated “resistance against the coup d’état,” but before doing that it is convenient to analyze what the term coup d’état really means. Of course, this is strictly speaking redundant since there are legal terms for all these crimes, but since coup is so widely used in common speech it may still serve a purpose.

The Human Rights Foundation has tabulated a number of definitions in their report The Facts and the Law behind the democratic crisis of Honduras, 2009 : A Constitutional and International Democracy Law Analysis (March, 2010; pp. 96-98). In my humble opinion, they are virtually all wrong, though, in that they consider that in order to be a coup, the victim must be the chief executive. Parenthetically they do not even consider the possibility of a parliamentarian system with a separate head of state and head of government: which of the two is the chief executive for the purpose of the coup? Only one source listed any branch of government as the victim.

So is Mel Zelaya a victim? Not if you ask me. He was just a servant to his people, elected to work for them. He can impossibly be a victim in his capacity as president (only as an individual person whose human rights were violated, e.g., by being arrested without due process). The president is an abstract function, the holder of an office, not a person of flesh and blood. Make this mental experiment: Assume that we could develop a robot that could fill the role of president, and that a coup was made against it. Would that robot then have human rights? Of course not. We have to separate person from office. There is a dangerous and strong tendency today (at least in the U.S.) not to do so. That path leads to monarchy. Do we want to go there?

Therefore we must conclude that the victim of a coup is not a single person, or even a group of persons. Literally, the victim of a coup d’état is the state. This is exactly what coup d’état means: A strike against the state (golpe de estado). And what defines the state? –The Constitution.

Having defined that a coup d’état is directed against the constitution, and neither against an individual nor against an office, things get clearer conceptually. Unless the following events result from a revolution or a foreign occupation (in which case they are typically declared null and void by the constitution anyway), they would qualify as a coup d’état:

  1. Changing the constitution by means not allowed for by the constitution
  2. Someone occupying the top level of any independent branch of government who should not hold that position if the constitution had been followed

It seems to me that these two points capture all cases. As to manner of execution, the use of either force, coercion, or fraud may be part of a coup, but at the very least a swiftness that overruns the checks and balances and puts them before a fait accompli. Coups are a threat to all democratic organizations, not just states. It is to avoid coups that certain meeting rules exist, such as stipulating that for a decision to be valid all participants must have been informed a certain time in advance, and that no decision can be taken on an item not on the distributed agenda.

The ways a constitution can legally be changed are:

  1. By any means explicitly allowed for in the constitution itself, or
  2. the state fails to the point where it ceases to exist, why a constituting assembly is held to re-establish it.

It should be noted that point 2 refers to cases where there are no legitimate office-holders, and no constitutional way to re-populate the offices.

Some of the unconstitutional ways to change a constitution are:

  1. The constitution is overthrown by an insurrection (popularly known as a revolution),
  2. the constitution is changed while under foreign occupation after a war, and
  3. it is altered by the sitting government in ways not expressly allowed for by the constitution itself.

Point 3 would be an autogolpe, or self-coup, but a self-coup could also be to violate the constitution by sitting beyond term limits, without formally changing it. Points 1 and 2 are typically explicitly illegal in mature constitutions.

If we look at Latin America in recent years, several countries have gone around the presidential term limit by first changing the constitution. As long as this change is permissible, it is legal, but if the change was illegal then the old constitution would still be the valid one, and a coup d’état would have occurred.

Applied to Honduras

If we apply this to the Honduran political crisis of 2009, we see that then-president Manuel Zelaya overtly tried to bring about a constituting constitutional assembly, knowing full well that it was unconstitutional. He was thus attempting to commit a coup d’état, but his plans were foiled.  Manuel Zelaya was the coupster in Honduras June 28, 2009.

The crucial days were from June 24. Until then he had (or he believed he had) the support of the military for implementing the unconstitutional national vote that he had labeled a poll. However, June 24 the military had run out of rope; they had to inform the president that they were unable to obey since their orders were illegal.

Until June 24th Zelaya had been attempting to steamroll the other branches of government by using the threat of military force. In fact, he had started threatening force already to try to stack the Supreme Court early in the year, but backed down in the face-off with Micheletti, then the president of Congress. This was most fortunate indeed, since if Zelaya had succeeded, there might have been no legal way to stop his coup.

As things developed, the Supreme Court put legal pressure on the military, and that way they were able to remove Zelaya’s ability to use the threat of force in his coup plans. Incidentally, the new president, Lobo, has now removed the chief justice who stopped Zelaya’s coup.

While Zelaya tried to change the constitution illegally (and he openly admits to his plans, although he doesn’t call his attempted coup a coup), Micheletti has been accused of having come to power in a way not allowed for by the constitution, in a “military coup d’état.” As I linked to in the previous entry, although the events and formalities were those of a military coup, followed by an unconstitutional change of president by Congress (i.e., an impeachment coup), followed by a tacit approval by the Supreme Court, the HRF report concludes that the exact same thing could have been accomplished completely legally and constitutionally.

If all actors had done their duty and dealt with the coupsters according to the law, the result would have been the same: Micheletti would have become interim president.

If we accept the legal analysis of HRF’s report, by their definition this was a coup because of the manner in which Micheletti was appointed. However, this is just a formality. If the democratic institutions had corrected their errors, Micheletti would still have become the interim president. It’s a coup in form, not in substance. With my definition above, if the Supreme Court corrects themselves, there will have been no coup since the definition focuses on substance, not form. (Congress’s report says that the appointment was constitutional and thus no coup at all.)

So why the error in form when it was not necessary, just harmful to the country?

There was surely a degree of panic. Their main ally, the U.S., had seemingly abandoned them and thrown their support behind the coupster, who in turn was a front man for Chávez, an ally of Castro.

There was also uncertainty about who could be trusted. If neither the OAS nor the U.S. could be trusted, then who?

Time was running out. At 6 AM on June 28th the illegal poll would start. It was expected that Zelaya, knowing that time was working against his coup plans, would jump a couple of steps and appoint the Constituyente immediately after the close of the poll – and that the result of the poll was pre-determined. This was later confirmed when fake poll results were found. Furthermore, inside sources have told me that Zelaya planned to appoint Patricia Rodas to arrange the constituting assembly, and that she would return the favor by appointing Zelaya as the Constituyente – in other words, a chief executive that is above all laws.

Does this sound absurd? Well, read websites reporting on the activities of the self-denominated resistance movement. They argue that this is legal. They don’t see any illegality in it. People I have talked to in Honduras who support the “resistencia” have completely swallowed the rhetoric from Radio Globo and others, this new-speak. They fail to recognize that it is demagoguery as old as democracy itself, used already by the old Greeks whenever a tyrant conspired to take over a democracy with the support of the poorly educated people, a mob turned against their own self-interest.

Returning to the events June 24 to 28, the military had opposed Zelaya. Given how they had taken a public stand, failure was not an option. In combination with the uncertainty of who the enemy was (wolves in sheep’s clothing, corrupt officials, and the risk of foreign armed infiltrators), it is understandable that they trusted nobody but themselves with making sure Zelaya could not exert influence in Honduras – which surely is why they exiled him.

From their point of view their mission was to defend the State against a coup d’état by their own commander in chief. This was not a situation of normal police work; this was an existential threat to the State. Therefore I think the decision of the Supreme Court to free the military leadership of responsibility for having sent Zelaya abroad instead of to jail was correct. If the military had followed orders and arrested him, there was a real risk that the coup d’état would have succeeded, given the powerful friends that Zelaya appeared to have (not primarily Chávez, but OAS and USA), who could quite likely have used their influence to free him.

The impeachment coup that HRF concludes that Congress committed has to be seen in the same vein. In the face of an imminent threat (including a military threat by Venezuela), it was imperative that an interim president immediately take control over the government, so that the State could defend itself. With Zelaya in Costa Rica the Supreme Court could not follow procedure in the criminal case against him. This, I presume, created a situation in which ad hoc solutions were taken without much contemplation over the consequences. Bringing up the letter that Zelaya presumably wrote June 25 when an attempt was made to make him resign, is a prime example of an ad hoc solution that back-fired.

Like Javier El-Hage, the author of the HRF report, I used to think that a coup is never justified. However, the case can be argued. Consider murder. Shooting someone in self-defense as a last resort is allowed in every jurisdiction I am aware of. The same standard has to be applied to coup d’états. We have to allow a coup d’état in order to stop a coup d’état, if the threat is imminent and there is no other realistic defense.

I never thought I’d ever say this, but yes, I have concluded that a coup can be defended if done in defense of the State against a hostile coup. This was the case in Honduras; the military on the face of it committed a coup, and according to the HRF report, Congress then committed an impeachment coup, but the objective in both cases was only to defend the Constitution, and nothing they did resulted in anything but making sure that the order of succession was honored, and that the Constitution remained in force.

How can anyone object to that?

PS. As I stated initially this is really of academic interest only, since coup is not a legal term. The legal violations that allegedly were carried out on June 28th in defense of democracy must be weighed against the context of the situation. Also, if neither the constitution was changed (criterion 1 above), nor any office-holder was appointed contrary to the constitution (criterion 2), can it then really be said to have been a coup, regardless of formalities?

Published 2010-04-20 16:40, last edited 2010-04-22 21:00.

Zelaya & Llorens: Partners in Crime?

The other day a sub-committee in the US Congress had a hearing about Honduras. Among the things brought up were some economical affairs including a settlement in a USAmerican court granting a USAmerican company $51M in compensation from the Republic of Honduras. They insisted that Honduras deal with this. (See p 2 ff in transcript.)

Honduras has now started to do so. It turns out the money was awarded in a settlement, the legitimacy of which under Honduran law is questionable. In fact, they are investigating at present if the persons involved at the institution in question, FHIS, are guilty of corruption for the way in which they possibly misrepresented their country. The disputed contract dealt with reconstruction after hurricane Mitch, which hit in 1998.

This reminded me of a story that went around the blogosphere last summer. Manuel Zelaya was from 1994 the director of FHIS, and at that time he dealt with Hugo Llorens, the present USAmerican ambassador to Honduras. A corruption scandal was also implied.

Could it be that these two stories are linked? Could it be that Llorens is now running Honduras as a USAmerican viceroy just so that they can complete the corruption and bring the money home? Is Barack Obama a pawn in a banana-republic corruption scandal?

If he is not, or does not wish to be, he should fire that Llorens figure faster than quick. He seems dirtier than the lahar that leveled two towns in Nicaragua during Mitch.

On the other hand, Hugo Llorens was the principal advisor to the US President and National Security Advisor on issues pertaining to Venezuela during the failed coup against Hugo Chávez in 2002, and the US was the only country to side with the coupsters. What’s the deal with this Llorens, does he have no moral compass, or does he just dislike presidents who share his name? Or was Zelaya intended as a double agent in ALBA? Does he in reality work for CIA? Myself I don’t believe in ideology as a driving force for these men. No, personal crass economic self-interest makes a more compelling argument in my opinion. Corruption, in other words. Either that, or stupidity. But time will tell, time will tell.

Human Rights-case against Honduras is good news

The case that Zelaya and his colleagues brought against Honduras before the Interamerican Human Rights Court is good news for Honduras. They accuse the “state of Honduras” to have committed a “coup d’état” on June 28, 2009. There are several reasons why this is good news:

  1. Zelaya has no case. His claim is baseless. The only complaint is that there is no due process in Honduras, but this is contradicted by the fact that two of the plaintiffs are in a process in Honduras at this very moment, and due process is observed.
  2. What Honduras has wanted more than anything since the UN General Assembly condemned the deposing of Zelaya last year as a “coup”, is to have an international judicial institution examine the legalities of the case, since that would provide independent third-party confirmation that it was a legal and constitutional succession. By bringing this case Zelaya has therefore done what Honduras couldn’t.
  3. The country has previously been reported to the International Criminal Court, ICC, but nothing has happened in that case, and most likely nothing will. This case is therefore a better chance for Honduras to defend its reputation as a democracy that respects the rule of law.
  4. Politically, this means that Zelaya has stabbed his benefactor president Pepe Lobo in the back. By letting the ex president leave the country, Lobo took a risk. When Zelaya continues to argue against the recognition of Lobo, and denouncing the country before international courts, it only serves to strengthen Lobo’s credibility within Honduras and make it easier for him to govern – while Zelaya becomes ever more irrelevant.

Next Tuesday the reply from Honduras to the commission investigating the case will be ready. The deadline for the reply is March 26.