Category Archives: English

Posts in English or with significant English parts

Land is built with law – and leased

Zelaya claimed that he wanted to rewrite the Constitution of Honduras since the existing one got in the way of fighting poverty. However, I claim that to be a lie, intended only to secure him the support of an easy-to-manipulate mob, which could serve as his power base for overrunning the Congress and the Supreme Court. It would do nothing to diminish the real cause of poverty and starvation in the country.

Allow me to suggest a better strategy, based on the Viking time Scandinavian principle “Land skall med lag byggas”, i.e., ‘Land is to be built with law’.

Let us also stop talking about “fighting poverty”. Psychologists know that if we negate something, like poverty in this case, we tend to miss the negation. We thus get our minds set on poverty. What we should do instead is to set our minds on the opposite of poverty, i.e., on building wealth; the wealth of having ones physical needs satisfied: Food, a place to live, access to health care, education, and enough money for the essentials of life.

The key to wealth is to unlock the natural resources of a country, through legislation.

Background

Over half of the population lives on subsistence farming, and even more live under the poverty level. Most good land is owned by a few large land-owners, and that land is often used with a rather low intensity, such as cattle grazing. As a contrast, others have no land at all but cultivate on marginal land, which leads not only to poor productivity but to soil erosion, and to sedimentation in water reservoirs with loss of storage capacity.

The cadaster law in Honduras is of rather recent date (link). I have not been able to find any law on land leasing yet. On the contrary, until recently and perhaps still, the one who has cultivated a piece of land for 10 years was considered the owner, which is why leasing land was not just unregulated, it was impossible. In fact, illegal cultivation of the land of others was the background of the hunger march in 1975, and the murder of 14 persons for which Manuel Zelaya Rosales’ father went to jail.

In comparison, Sweden has had a cadaster for centuries; the making of large scale maps over villages and farms started in 1628. Late in the 19th century there was a debate on the need for a law on land leasing, called “arrende” in Swedish. The new law was passed 1907, and the present arrende “law” is chapters 8 through 11 in Jordabalken, the real estate law.

Purpose of the laws

When you design a car, you want all the pieces to work together so that the overall machine is as fast, comfortable, economical, sustainable, and safe as possible. The same thing applies when creating legislation; the machine is society, and the goal is to make it run as fast, comfortably, economical, sustainably, and safe as possible.

The purpose of the cadaster is to make real estate a tradable asset, so it can be bought, sold, and mortgaged. The right to private ownership is essential for a well-tuned economy, and land is the perhaps most important asset and thus motor for driving the economy. The landowner’s right has to be firmly protected in a country for significant foreign investments to take place, or to prevent that money leaves the country to safer places. Money is of course essential, because the more money there is, the lower the interest rates will be, and the easier it will be for entrepreneurs to start businesses.

The purpose of the land lease law, “arrende law,” is to provide the “grease” that will allow the economical resources to be optimally located in the country. A big landowner may not be able to cultivate his land as efficiently as a bunch of small farmers could. The overall productivity for the nation will be higher if an absentee landowner leases suitably sized portions to agronomists who can set up modern and efficient farms. This will also increase the employment on the countryside, because high-intensity agriculture requires many employees, whereas cattle grazing requires very few.

The Swedish “arrende law”

What is it then that the land lease law does? It has two important roles.

First, it safeguards the landowner’s right to the land. He does not risk loosing it by letting someone else use it, which (I’ve been told) is a major concern for Honduran landowners today, and the main reason why the land of the country is so sub-optimally exploited (which in turn leads to poverty and starvation).

Second, it provides a method for conflict resolution. The Swedish law establishes an “arrende board” in each district. In all matters of potential dispute, the board is involved. The general formula is in each case or dispute the following:

  1. The arrende board decides if the landowner has a duty according to the law to do something (e.g., repair buildings, drainage, irrigation, or build some new structure due to a change in the legal requirements).
  2. They also establish a price for this job, their best estimate.
  3. The landowner gets one month to fix the problem.
  4. If he does not, the lessee (arrendatorn) can fix the problem himself, and charge the cost (according to the price set by the board) from the landowner (normally by deducting it from what he owes for the lease).

The arrende board also settles the issue of lease payment if a lease is prolonged beyond the initial period. The law limits how long an initial lease can be (the time depends on the type of lease: cultivation lease, building lease, etc.). The law also establishes a departure day, the date when a lessee has to leave the farm at the end of a lease (this “fardag” is March 14th, a time of year when the barns are almost empty after the last season, but before the cultivation for the new season starts).

Proposal: A Honduran land lease law

To reach the goal of optimal land use, there must be appropriate laws for land ownership, cadaster, and for land lease. This is true also in other countries, in some of which past attempts to land redistribution reforms have led to violent clashes, civil war, or a coup d’état.

One person may be better at making good use of the value of the land, and another of the fertility of it. To redistribute the ownership for the purpose of cultivation sacrifices one for the other, and rocks the foundations of the economy. It is much safer, and surely even more efficient, to create a land lease law for satisfying the goal of optimal land use.

If I could advice the political leadership in Honduras, I would urge them to proceed as follows:

  1. Make sure the cadaster is working and that the ownership of land is guaranteed, thus providing a domestic source of equity.
  2. Create a land lease law that is designed to facilitate optimal land use from both an economical and an environmental perspective.

It would probably be wisest to appoint an expert or a commission to thouroughly examine the present situation first. They could compare the laws of other countries, like I did above with Sweden, and suggest the objectives and goals of recommended legislative reforms.

Prosecution of Honduran military

On July 3rd, army attorney Col. Inestroza confessed that it was the military top brass themselves who had decided to send ex president Manuel Zelaya to Costa Rica on June 28th, even though they knew it violated the Constitution. Their justification was that it was necessary. He also said that an investigation had been initiated and that they expected to be prosecuted.

Since nothing more has come out I asked a press spokesperson at the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa for an update. They were unaware of it but asked the judicial authorities. Due to it being an ongoing investigation they would not give any details, other than confirming that the investigation is indeed proceeding, and that the matter is taken seriously.

There seems to be little disagreement that the military violated the law, though. When more details come out I will for sure report it here. It should perhaps be mentioned that Zelaya was no longer considered to be president at the time, and that the military had order from the Supreme Court to arrest the man.

TeleSUR’s anti-Honduras propaganda exposed

This video I saw on CNN as it happened, although only from point 4 below. It took place in El Paraiso, when Zelaya was attempting to cross into Honduras at Las Manos. It was shot by TeleSUR, the international TV channel of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. The video shows how Zelaya-supporters are pushed away by anti-riot forces. It was shown as an example of how the “repressive military” attacked the ‘unarmed” and “peaceful” demonstrators. But now the video has been analyzed by the newspaper La Prensa in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Since the video is in Spanish I will explain.
Observation nr 1: There are zelayistas hidden in the van. A person screams “they are shooting!”
Observation nr 2: There is a bullet hole in the windshield of the van, even though the riot forces are on the opposite side of the vehicle.
Observation nr 3: Note how a shot is fired from inside the van, from the floor in front of the seats.
Observation nr 4: The sympathizers with Zelaya now emerge from the van, and others appear to stand in firing position.
Observation nr 5: The person with a Zelaya hat also appears to be in firing position, and he is carrying a firearm.
Observation nr 6: When he ran one could hear the clinging of metal, and then laughter is heard.

Myself I couldn’t hear the sound of metal, but I did hear something that was not commented in the video: As they are running along the wall, a person asks the cameraman twice, “¿Te quedó bueno?” That is, he wanted to know if he had got a good scene, if it had turned out as planned, but didn’t realize that the camera was still running. Another indication that the whole event was staged for propaganda purposes.

After having seen the impression the video has had over the world, and how it was created, can one but laugh? As Abraham Lincoln said, “It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

This frame shows a bullet being fired through the windshield from inside the car
This frame shows a bullet being fired through the windshield from inside the car

It should be pointed out that almost all TV scenes that have been shown about riots in Honduras abroad are shot by TeleSUR, even most of what has been shown by CNN en Español. The reason is that the Zelaya supporters chase away all the others with threat of violence, leaving only TeleSUR with access to the events. This may well be a deliberate strategy, since both TeleSUR and the zelayistas ultimately take order from the same man, Hugo Chávez.

Honduras defended democracy against tyranny

Some claim that the succession of president in Honduras on June 28th 2009 was a military coup. In fact, 192 countries out of 192 in the United Nation’s General Assembly decided so under the chairmanship of D’Escoto, a Sandinista revolutionary.

However, as I outlined in my open letter to the foreign minister of Sweden, Carl Bildt, the legal case for calling it a coup just isn’t there. Last Friday I called the foreign department to ask them what they base their position that it was a coup on, and they could not give me a single reference to a legal analysis supporting their position.

Today through e-mail I got a link to an article on the Internet claiming to provide such an analysis. Let me thus examine it.

The author agrees that §239 of Honduras’ constitution would get Zelaya fired if he tried to change the terms of the presidency. Zelaya and his supporters just claim he didn’t–and that is true literally, since he explicitly denied it. His acts speak otherwise, though. This is the conclusion every lawyer that I know who has examined the case has come to, and I would come to the same conclusion if I was in a jury.

However, it is not for you and me to judge, it is for the Supreme Court of Justice in Honduras to judge. They indeed judged that he violated that provision of the Constitution. This fact the author of the article rejects with the words “The Honduran Supreme Court of Justice… falsely accused Manuel Zelaya of attempting a referendum to extend his term in office.” Sooo, exactly who has the last word in legal matters, if not the supreme court? The mob on the street, perhaps? A ruler that has the mob on the street as his power base against the institutions is not unheard of. Such a ruler even has a name. It is “tyrant”. Look it up!

By claiming that the Supreme Court “accused” him of anything, the author has already lost the case. A court does not accuse, a court rules. But, just for the heck of it, let’s see what else he writes.

The author goes on to assert that it does not violate the constitution to establish an Assemblea Nacional Constituyente, a Constituting National Assembly for writing an entirely new constitution. Again, it is not for the mob to decide but for the court, and they did, issuing a cease and desist order on May 27 that covers everyone, and every modification to the plan. It is clear why they did so to me, but that is actually irrelevant; the only thing that matters is that the Court has the final word in a land ruled by law, as opposed to by the mob.

What the author conveniently fails to mention is the final straw that broke the camel’s back. On June 25, president Zelaya issued, in La Gaceta, decree PCM-019-2009 which revoked the unpublished decree PCM-05-2009 of March 23 (the referendum having received a cease and desist order on May 27), plus decree PCM-020-2009, in which it is ordered that a “national opinion poll” is held on June 28, with the question if a fourth ballot box shall be installed in the general elections on November 29, for holding a referendum on whether to create a national constituting assembly. This was a flagrant violation of the court ruling of May 27.

Furthermore, he fails to mention that Zelaya in the head of a mob broke into and took the ballots and ballot boxes that a court had ordered locked up to prevent violations of the injunction. Again, to rely on a mob while violating the law and the other branches of government is a hallmark of a classical tyrant.

Throughout history many have managed to make themselves tyrants due to the meekness of those who defend democracy. In fresh memory we have Adolf Hitler, and in this century we have Hugo Chávez, but history is full of more or less bad apples. Many tyrants have been liked initially by the people, but the destruction of the rule of law eventually tends to undercut the opinion poll numbers of every tyrant.

What makes Honduras so remarkable is that this little insignificant country, the 3rd poorest in the Americas, one of the 10 most dangerous countries of the world in terms of criminality, managed to defend democracy against a very determined and well-funded attempt to create tyranny. If Honduras can, we should be able to as well!

Open letter to his excellence Carl Bildt

Regarding the defense of Honduras’ democracy and freedom

It is as though the world has forgotten the basics of democracy when it comes to Honduras. If one answers the following questions the absurdity of the position of the world community becomes clear:

  • What regulates who is head of state? –The Constitution.
  • Who has the final word in interpreting the Constitution? –The Supreme Court of Justice.
  • Who appoints the Supreme Court? –The elected representatives in Congress.
  • The present Congress is the one elected in the last elections, why it is legitimate.

    The present Supreme Court is the one appointed by Congress, why it is legitimate.

    This Supreme Court has found that the former president violated §239 of the Constitution why he no longer is president, and they issued an arrest order for him to the military.

    The Constitution determines the succession, and the one who according to the law was to step in after Zelaya was the president of the Congress: Roberto Micheletti.

    The Congress has sworn in Micheletti as president according to the Constitution.

    These facts are the only ones that matter for determining who is head of state in Honduras. Everything else is irrelevant, or a pure smokescreen. The democratic institutions of Honduras have defended the country against an attack on the Constitution, instigated by a foreign power. This does not speak to the weakness of the country’s democracy, but to the strength of its democratic institutions. We should congratulate them, not condemn them. Those who deserve condemnation are those who through illegal means tried to undercut the democracy of the country.

    When the world community now demands that Zelaya is reinstated it is equivalent to forcing a king on a colony.

    It is understandable why it turned out so wrong. In diplomatic relations only the head of state has a voice. Sweden is at an advantage by having a king, since it makes it hard to lose the continuity. But in the many republics of the Americas the president is typically both head of state and head of government, and on top of that commander in chief. When the head of government has to be fired one loses also the head of state. Since the Supreme Court lacks voice in relation to foreign countries, the diplomatic continuity is lost. This is what happened to Honduras. It was no coup, but due to a design flaw in the diplomatic structures it appeared as one.

    It is also worth noting that it is the new government in Honduras that has brought up the issue of a truth commission in the talks in Costa Rica, not the deposed president. This can reasonably be interpreted to mean that they feel they have everything to win and nothing to lose if the truth comes out, and this ought to provide a justification for you and others within the European Union to take a closer look at the issue.

    The talks under Oscar Arias are in deadlock now since Honduras cannot negotiate away its Constitution, and the demand from the world community violates it. They are faced with the choice of being punished by the world, or to sacrifice their independence. The only way out of this trap, set by Hugo Chávez, is to persuade the world to listen to them. But as long as the world figuratively speaking is covering their ears, it is difficult.

    Therefore I ask you to look closer at this. A start might be to read what the Honduran-American lawyer Miguel Estrada wrote today in the journal AJC (http://www.ajc.com/opinion/in-95580.html).

    signed Ulf Erlingsson

    Published in Sydsvenska Dagbladet July 24th, 2009 in Swedish
    (Carl Bildt is minister for foreign relations in Sweden, and Sweden presently has the presidency of the European Union)

    Chavez bakom skottlossningen i Honduras

    2009-07-08 12:00 ET, senaste uppdaterad 16:35 – Oroligheterna i Honduras som ledde till det första dödsfallet i söndags då Zelaya försökte landa var planerade av Hugo Chavez. Det skriver tidningen El Heraldo i Honduras, och baserar sig på vad som Venezuelas president hade glömt sudda ut på sin vita tavla innan han bjöd in journalister att fotografera hur han följde Zelayas flygning på TV (se bild).

    På tavlan står det “051345JUL09 Enjambre de abejas africanas, Tribuna Presidencial, heridos por picadas y desesperación de las personas”. Fast sista ordet är bara ett P., så det kan syfta på antingen personas eller población, men innebörden blir densamma.

    Det är först militär kod för datum och tid (i ISO, 20090705 13:45). Det var just den tidpunkt då folket bröt igenom militärens avspärrning och tog sig ända fram till flygplatsen. Sen står det “grupper av afrikanska bin”, vilket syftar på en folkmobb, speciellt då den angriper ordningsmakten. Det mest graverande är dock “sårade genom stick och att människorna blir desperata”. Detta i kombination med Zelayas uppmaning från flygplanet, just då fotot ovan togs, till folket att anfalla militären och ta sig in på flygplatsen för att rensa landningsbanan, är en klar indikation på att Chavez och Zelaya agerade tillsammans i akt och mening att skapa kaos, att få fram en martyr.

    “Tribuna” betyder just en pulpit, en upphöjd plats varifrån man kan tilltala allmänheten – just det Zelaya gjorde vid den tidpunkt då bilden togs (se text på TVn: “Voz Manuel Zelaya – en vivo”, alltså, ‘Manuel Zelayas röst live’). Hela koden stämmer precis med vad som skedde, och det var som bekant ett venezolanskt flygplan (som för övrigt kränkte honduranskt luftrum).

    En tonåring dog, enligt uppgift från myndigheterna skjuten i nacken. Samtidigt använde militären gummikulor, enligt uppgift. Bilden som tonar fram är därför att Zelaya tar order från Chavez för att destabilisera sitt eget land, utan att bry sig om att folk dör – tvärtom, det verkar ha varit själva syftet.

    Samma artikel finns i La Prensa, med en bild i högre upplösning.

    Fotnot: Detta visar att DNs rapportering (se nedan) verkligen var godtrogen, och att de föll för Chavez propaganda. Skäms!

    ENGLISH SUMMARY: While Zelaya was talking to people encouraging them to attack the airport Sunday (see TV text), the text on Chávez’ whiteboard read in translation “5 July 2009, 1:45 PM, swarms of african bees, presidential pulpit, wounded through stings and desperation among the people.” Swarms of african bees is military code for gangs of thugs. In other stories it has been reported how the “demonstrators” were paid before and after the event. The time on the whiteboard matches the time of the attack and the events on the live TV. The plane was Venezuelan. It is obvious that the goal was to create martyrs.