Category Archives: Analysis

Facts, background, research

A Honduran Synthesis

Looking at Honduras from a long distance, in space and also more and more in time since last year’s political crisis, this is what I see: A democratic country that is de facto controlled by an oligarchy, through deep-running corruption and state control that goes way beyond what most western democracies would be comfortable with. By price fixing and splitting up the business in segments, so that each of the main Families gets some solid source of income, status quo is preserved. The result is a rich elite, but a poor country.

The anthithesis of this, the opposite extreme, is communism, such as the so-called Socialism of the XXI’st Century, that Venezuela and Cuba are doing their best to spread in Latin America. The methods include buying presidential candidates or presidents, such as Zelaya in Honduras, who then set in motion a process to change the country’s constitution. The new constitution calls for democratic socialism with a large degree of populism. In essence, populism is the opposite of institutionality. The effect of this change, if implemented fully, is a formally democratic dictatorship, where the ruler has at his disposal a herd of election cattle. Since this isn’t the first time in history that this strategy has been used, several countries have articles in their constitutions designed to make it impossible. Honduras is one of those countries.

What happened in Honduras June 28, 2009, was the end of an attempt to overrun the constitution and introduce the antithetical form of government, by a person who himself belongs to the oligarchy: Manuel Zelaya. It was an attempt at replacing one corrupt system with another corrupt system (in fact, even more corrupt according to many sources). Instead of an elite ostensibly ruling for the upper class, it would be part of the same elite ostensibly ruling for the working class. But of this came naught, since all the institutions of government objected to it in unison, and stopped it.

During the months that followed, there was a widespread hope that finally corruption would be dealt with, that the rule of law would be established, and that liberal democracy had triumphed in Honduras. Even the color of this movement reflected that; instead of blue or red, this was the white movement, using the color of peace. Rather than dominated by the elite or the working class, this was a movement of the middle class, a newly politically awakened middle class.

A year after the election of a new president – Porfirio Lobo from the nationalist party – it seems that his ideal is very close to the old thesis: Keep the rich in power. He allows the extreme left to express their opinions, partly because they have the international spotlight on them still, partly because their message is so foreign to most Hondurans that they do not constitute a serious opposition. However, he has repeatedly expressed discontent with criticism from the middle class, and even gone as far as to silence critics by threatening to withdraw their citizenship. It seems that the middle class is where he sees the real threat coming from – and he would be right.

It is only the educated middle class that can bring about a real liberal democracy under the rule of law in Honduras. However, as yet there is no obvious leader for the movement (and, I might add, it may not be good for a person’s health to be that leader, in a country where even congressmen are chased down and murdered in broad daylight).

Still, we can already see that there is a political void, a space that a savvy politician could take and make into his or her platform for the next presidential election. To position himself, or herself, is key. To be seen as the synthesis, as appealing to the majority in the middle, while not alienating any reasonable person on either side. There are ample campaign themes available for the one who wants to run for the middle, but which one(s) to pick will depend on the candidate’s background.

Honduras: Land Conflict Background

This article is a personal reflection, my version if you will, of the agricultural coop movement from the reform sector in Honduras, which I believe has contributed to the land problems we are seeing nowadays. Let me first say that I believe Honduras has a very good if not excellent cooperative law and regulations; therefore, I do not think that is the problem. May be the problem is enforcement.

Following on my dad’s steps who worked on cooperative extension back in the 60s after receiving training in the US, I had my share of experience working on agricultural coops in the 80s. Ag-coops were popular at that time, induced by the reforma agraria which started in the early 60s but did not picked up momentum until the 70s and 80s. As such, the agricultural coop movement became very politicized, and most of the agricultural coops were not born out of the farmers own needs, but were also induced since in order for landless peasants to be beneficiaries of the agrarian reform and recipients of large extensions of land under the reforma agraria, they had to be organized.

The most common and typical organizational model were agricultural coops which comprised the so called “reformed sector”. One of the main characteristics of the reformed sector is that in its majority, lacked governability, in part as a result of the lack of education of the coops members (consider that most if not all coops members were landless peasants who did not have access to resources, education, etc.), reason why they were managed by outsiders appointed by politicians and for political reasons; consequently, they were mismanaged leading to corruption and the failure of many ag-coops. Still, a few were very successful, especially those on the banana and palm oil subsector. Due to the failure of most ag-coops from the reform sector, the “Cooperative” word as an agricultural organization, become almost a prohibited one in Honduras; especially since many farmers felt cheated and that they were taken advantage of, since they never saw the promised results of the agrarian reform.

Then came the 90s, and along with it the WB and IMF induced macroeconomic and structural reforms in Honduras, which included the liberalization of markets and privatization of public enterprises. In the agricultural sector the market liberalization included the factors of production, (read: tierras agricolas), for what the government saw the need to privatized the lands that were assigned to the reform sector since until then, they were considered public lands given to the reform sector just for the usufruct, and as such they could not be sold. Consequently, as result of the structural reforms, the government gave ownership through private property titles to the coops members and some, including large ones and considered successful coops, collectively decided to sell their land (e.g. Cooperative Gaunchias); in the process creating a new generation of landless peasants.

Based on this description, I think that it at least in part explains the land problems the country is facing nowadays. Some of the new landless peasants may be the offspring of the ones who sold the land back then and feel that they were cheated out of their land also, especially when considering the current value of such land compared to the sale value of back then. Some are asking to be re-compensated and others just want what they consider “their” land back. As the problem evolves, let’s see what happens.

Cocaine and Honduras

The street value of the cocaine that is smuggled through Honduras every year is much larger than the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). I pointed that out in an article in Swedish Newsmill two weeks ago, and now it has been brought to the front burner also in Washington (Brookings Institute, Honduras Weekly).

Trying to understand the political crisis of 2009 is futile, in my opinion, if one does not take into account the drug smuggling. I have written an estimated 30 or so posts the last 16 months on the issue, exposing how the drug cartels are taking advantage of the situation. They are both making it worse to suit their purposes, and they are manipulating media’s reporting of it, also to suit their purposes.

The cocaine smugglers, who are in cohorts with the communists, socialists, or whatever you call them, benefit when:

  1. the security apparatus is overwhelmed
  2. the people does not trust the security apparatus

It is simple logic to figure out what tactical moves the drug cartels could take, and apparently are taking, to exploit the vulnerability of the country:

  1. commit murders, but do it so the blame falls on the police, or even better, on the state itself
  2. encourage demonstrations, pay people to block the streets and riot
  3. encourage populist ideas that are unconstitutional or otherwise impossible to make work
  4. The idea is simply to make the state fail. To make the citizens distrust their government. To make everyone distrust the police isn’t hard: Just bribe a few policemen to “help” out by doing criminal acts, such as kidnapping or “scaring” supporters of the anti-government so-called resistance. If that fails, dress out as police. The main thing is that the “resistance” believes that they are targeted by government-sponsored death squads.

    For good measure, they can also kill one or two businessmen, or a dozen, what the heck; and make it seem that it was done by the “resistencia”. If they are really successful, real death squads might appear eventually.

    Mayhem

    The basic idea is to create mayhem. They have created a terrible level of violence, but all hell hasn’t broken loose yet. The military is still holding their position as the most trusted institution in Honduras, and that bodes well for the future. The fact that the military arrested the president last year, on the Supreme Court’s orders, and stood up to all attempts to bribe them, indicates that the leaders of the country have a solid support from where it really counts. And that any new attempt to overthrow the form of government would be risky, to say the least, since there is no chance, it seems, that the military would fold.

    The second strong force is the private enterprise. They are stepping up with donations to help increase the security, with a surveillance system in San Pedro Sula, capable of integrating 800 cameras with automatic detection of suspect activities. Another good thing with it is that it may provide videos of alleged police brutality, so that it can be determined, finally, if it is the police that breaks the law, or the demonstrators who make false accusations. That could help settle that argument so that the country can move on. The main purpose remains of course to help stop the violent crimes: Murders and kidnappings. And the effect is already starting to be noticed.

Rule of Law Index 2010 published

Original text 2010-10-15: Yesterday a rule of law index was published covering 35 nations. They covered 9 aspects, and presented the results over a hundred pages, but did not provide any overview. Therefore I’ve compiled the data and made the following simple graph, with all the scores at a glance.

Rule of Law index 2010 (click for full size)
Rule of Law index 2010 (click for full size)

Sweden got the highest score, while the United States only came in the ninth place, between France and Spain. Most Latin American countries ended up below the middle with almost the same score, but Bolivia – the only ALBA country included – ended up in the bottom 10% in this global comparison.

Update 2010-10-18: Having read that corruption is correlated with the form of government, with parliamentary systems being less corrupt than presidential systems, I decided to add an analysis of the form of government to this rule of law index by calculating the average position for each form of government. Result:

Parliamentary monarchy: Average 6.9 (7 countries).

Parliamentary republic: Average 5.2 (8 countries).

Full presidential republic: Average 4.4 (15 countries).

The parliamentary monarchy is also known as constitutional monarchy. There were also two semi-presidential republics, two semi-constitutional monarchies, and one parliamentary republic where the president is also head of government, in the list.

It would seem that the parliamentary monarchy is clearly superior, but one should keep in mind that monarchies only appear in countries that have been stable for a long time, and there is a clear correlation between low corruption and long time of stable government. The most interesting comparison is therefore between the two main forms of republics: The full presidential republic, and the parliamentary republic. The latter comes out the winner hands down. This graph illustrates it strikingly:

Rule of Law score as a function of Form of Government.
Rule of Law score as a function of Form of Government. Green = parliamentarian monarchies (e.g. Sweden, Canada), blue = parliamentarian republics (e.g. Austria, India), red = full presidential republics (e.g. USA, Latin America).

In a parliamentary republic the president is the head of state, and represents the country. The head of government, on the other hand, is a prime minister (premier), often the party leader of the biggest party in the parliament (or the leading party in a coalition). The cabinet, which may or may not be selected from members of parliament, takes decisions by majority vote, runs the bureaucracy much like the board of directors in a corporation, prepares the budget, and prepares major legislative proposals. The cabinet can be dismissed by a vote of no confidence by the parliament, for whatever reason. When that happens the head of state has to ask someone else to form the government, and if unsuccessful, may have to call for an extra election to change the balance of power in the parliament.

This is the typical system in Germanic Europe, but in the Americas it is virtually unknown south of Canada. Given the attacks on democracy that is taking place in Latin America, including Honduras, I would submit that going towards a parliamentary republic would strengthen democracy. Experience post WWII shows that parliamentary republics are likely to succeed in establishing democracy, but presidential republics are likely to suffer coups and authoritarian setbacks.

Everyone concerned about rule of law, democracy, and prosperity – in Honduras, Nicaragua, or elsewhere – would be well advised to consider separating the role of head of government from the presidency, so that the latter only remains head of state, and to let the popularly elected parliament exercise oversight over the head of government and his cabinet. This is a constitutional reform that makes sense, and that can be done completely legally.

Latin America’s Vanishing Democracy a Threat to Peace

Nicaragua cannot be called a democracy any more with a straight face. The president has stacked the Supreme Court, had them declare that he can run for re-election contrary to the constitution, had a new constitution printed when Congress refused to change it to his liking, and ignores blatant election fraud such as tossing 100% of opponent votes in the garbage bin.

This appears to be part of a plan to perpetuate the Ortegas at power. The plan is spearheaded by Venezuela, backed by Cuba, and includes Ecuador and Bolivia, while El Salvador and the Dominican Republic are “candidates”. Also Honduras is on the list.

Until now, Honduras has been the only country to effectively fight back and stand up for democracy.

Unfortunately, it may have been a temporary victory. The new president, Lobo, by claiming to follow instructions from abroad by financial necessity, appears to be playing a double game. It would seem that he is on the one hand pretending to act as though Zelaya’s deposing last year was a coup d’état that his country now has to atone for, while on the other hand he is doing things in a way that benefits the South American cocaine communists. Examples include not funding the fight against crime sufficiently, while engaging groups that don’t recognize the legitimacy of his government in discussing plans for throwing out the constitution by holding a “constituyente” – even though the Supreme Court has already declared that unconstitutional.

Real democracy requires rule of law. The pseudo-democracy of Chavez is democracy only to the name. The society lacks rule of law, lacks respect for property, lacks respect for laws and the constitution, and cooperates more or less openly with criminal and terrorist organizations.

Chavez allegedly buys other countries for $1 billion per year. That way he also gains votes in international organizations. When the OAS and the UN turn into tools for criminals and terrorists, gradually changing the majority, then the whole international framework of peace and stability is endangered. Venezuela is already supplying uranium to Iran, and Russia has agreed to build nuclear reactors in Venezuela – a country in which narco-terrorists control part of the territory without objection from the government.

What happens with Honduras and Latin America is crucially important for the security analysis of any country, also Sweden. Unfortunately, Latin America does not even seem to be on the radar in Europe. It is all Africa and Asia, leaving Latina America for the US to “handle”. A task that they apparently are incapable of, given that the US itself has the same flaws in its constitution that makes systemic corruption possible and legal.

The war of aggression on Iraq suggests that some US Republicans are way too close to the military-industrial complex. The reaction of part of the US Democrats after Zelaya’s attempted coup d’état and resulting deposal in Honduras on June 28, 2009, suggests that they are closer than comfortable to the narco-communists of South America.

The only thing that can save peace, liberty, and democracy, is if normal people wake up from their complacency, stop believing the hate messages spread by those wanting to control them, and insist on the rule of law. The single most important objective is to insist on the rule of law, and to refuse to be scared silent.

Footnote: A few days after writing this, Washington Post had an editorial on the same topic, Nicaragua, Honduras and hypocrisy.

Knark-kommunisternas planer avslöjade: 15-års “Reich”

Ett dokument som påstås vara upprättat vid ett besök i Nicaragua av Venezuelas president Hugo Chávez (spanska, engelska) lägger fram hela den välgenomtänkta planen för hur Latinamerikanska länder skall tas över, köpta för en miljard dollar per land och år av Venezuela. Vare sig dokumentet är äkta eller förfalskat så är det intressant, för hela strategin som presenteras har redan implementerats i ett eller flera länder. Min egen reflektion då jag läste det var att Chávez verkar ha studerat hur nationalsocialisterna kom till makten i Tyskland, för likheterna i strategin är slående.

Pepe Lobo och Mel Zelaya är inte bara kompisar, de verkar också ha liknande intressen.
Pepe Lobo och Mel Zelaya är inte bara kompisar, de verkar också ha liknande intressen. Lobo har nu startat en process för att ändra grundlagen så att en konstituerande grundlagsförsamling kan hållas - just det projekt som fick Mel att förlora presidentposten den 28 juni, 2009. Projektet är i grund och botten knark-kommunism.

En artikel om dokumentet har även publicerats på Huffington Post, vilket är anmärkningsvärt eftersom det är en blogg på vänsterkanten som tills nyligen varit ensidigt Chávez-vänlig. Detta betyder att vinden kanske har vänt, så Honduras inte längre behöver stå ensamt i kampen mot detta hot mot frihet och demokrati i Amerika. Ojala.

Notera att dokumentet, upprättat i januari 2009 enligt vad källan påstår, säger att Zelaya skall återväljas i november 2009 (presidentval hölls den 29 november). Problemet är att en president inte kan återväljas i Honduras. Därför skulle grundlagen ändras, det är en av punkterna i programmet. I mars 2009 utlyste Zelaya mycket riktigt en folkomröstning den 28 juni, om att hålla en folkomröstning den 29 november, om att tillsätta en konstituerande grundlagsförsamling. Han påstod att han själv inte skulle kunna väljas om, officiellt, men sanningen läckte ändå ut. Ledande personer i Honduras kände till planen redan före den 28 juni.

Planen var att folkomröstningen skulle riggas (Zelaya vann), han skulle på natten förklara att resultatet var så överväldigande att han bestämt sig för att utlysa grundlagsförsamlingen meddetsamma (massvis med Chávez-media var där och nyheten var redan skriven), han skulle så utse sig själv till ordförande för den, skriva om grundlagen så att han kunde bli omvald, och kasta ut resultatet av de redan hållna primärvalen genom fönstret. Det faktum att han inte anslagit några medel till de ordinarie valen visar tydligt att han inte avsåg att de skulle hållas.

Riksåklagaren hade väckt åtal för detta försök till att hålla en grundlagsvidrig folkomröstning, och högsta domstolen hade utfärdad ett direkt förbud mot alla i landet att på något sätt delta i den. De krävde också att presidenten rapporterade senast den 25 juni om deras order att stoppa planerna. Då han inte lämnade någon sådan rapport utfärdades en arresteringsorder för honom. Militären förstod att fienden hade förberett ett motdrag om presidenten arresterades, i form av ett väpnat upplopp lett av beväpnade infiltratörer, stormtrupper, från Venezuela. Därför sändes presidenten istället utomlands, och gränserna stängdes, med hänvisning till nationellt nödvärn. De agerade som om rikets säkerhet var hotat av en irreguljär attack. Dokumentet från Nicaragua stödjer deras hotbild.

Vad dokumentet inte nämner är den starka kopplingen mellan vänstergerillor och knarksmugglare i Sydamerika. Knarksmugglingen är dock inte så omfattande i Nicaragua, där säkerhetsstyrkorna har lyckats bekämpa den rätt effektivt. Honduras däremot fungerar sedan några år som landningsbana för hundratals eller till och med tusentals knarkflygningar varje år. Omkring 150 ton kokain passerar landet, uppskattas det. Medan Nicaragua knappt har några landningsbanor (vilket kunde slutat illa för mig men det är en annan historia) har Honduras massvis eftersom en stor del av landet är väglöst.

Värdet av det kokain som smugglas genom Honduras varje år är mer än dubbelt så stort som landets bruttonationalprodukt, vilket jag skrev om på Newsmill igår. Det är en Davids kamp mot Goliath som det lilla landet som kunde utkämpar. Men en dag, det är jag säker på, kommer de att få erkännande för att ha stått upp för fred, frihet, lag och rätt, den dag de avsatte Zelaya och de 7 månader de, under Micheletti, vägrade vika en tum för omvärldens påtryckningar. Om det finns någon rättvisa i världen så kommer de att hyllas en dag.

PS. Sverige kan ta åt sig en del av äran för att de stått upp för dessa höga värderingar, för vårt land har under flera år hjälp till att bygga upp kompetens inom demokrati, och den institution som även i Honduras kallas “ombudsman” för mänskliga rättigheter.

Publicerat 09:28 ET, sist uppdaterat 17:06 ET.

Drug cartels behind journalist murders in Honduras: Analysis

In this month alone – a month that has not yet ended – five (5!) members of the press have been murdered in Honduras. They were all gunned down by multiple perpetrators. Politically the crimes targeted journalists on all sides of the political spectrum. So why?

I have an hypothesis. In late February it started to become clear to more and more members of the press and bloggers that the murders that appeared to be political really were carried out by the drug cartels. Even I blogged about that, February 27th. The discourse took hold in Honduran press.

March 1st came the first murder of a journalist this year in Honduras: Joseph Ochoa. It seemed to be a political murder since the apparent target (who survived) had been targeted before, at which time her pregnant daughter was murdered instead. Her colleague died this time. Cabrera had come out in strong support of interim president Micheletti.

On March 11 David Meza was gunned down in La Ceiba. After this, the Honduran press strongly came out accusing the drug cartels of being behind it.

Within days, on March 14, a third journalist was shot to death, Nahúm Palacios, in Tocoa. He has killed on the eve of a demonstration against the drug cartel violence that the press had planned.

March 26 brought the violent death of two more members of the media, Bayardo Mairena and Manuel Juárez. They were killed in an area where there are many drug-carrying airplanes doing illegal landings to offload cocaine. Mairena had recently reported on organized crime on radio.

You don’t need to be an Einstein to see what is going on. Honduran press and bloggers understand that the security forces are compromised by corrupt persons, bought by the criminals. When the media report facts about crimes, it is inconvenient for criminals and corrupt policemen alike. It is so easy for the police to pretend to be death squads like in the 1980’s, pretend to murder for political reasons to pass the blame on the government and the president, while in reality they are working for the drug lords.

However, their scheme has been unmasked. It worked for a few months, during which much of the world believed that the country was an evil dictatorship, the human rights defenders spreading the intended message to the world. But no more. The truth is getting out there, and the drug cartels have only one strategy left: To murder the press.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is my analysis of why we have seen this unprecedented killing spree on journalists in the month of March in Honduras.

Media: Inside Costa Rica.