Honduras – what REALLY happened

There has been so much erroneous information about Honduras in the media that it may be in order to once again sum up the chain of events in the 2009 political crisis.

Manuel Zelaya was elected president 4 years ago. The constitution of Honduras does not allow for re-election of the president, and it is forbidden to in any way try to change that prohibition. In spite of that, Zelaya in March of 2009 decreed a popular referendum on the matter, in an attempt to circumvent the prohibition. The prosecutor took the case to court, and the court issued an injunction forbidding everyone in Honduras to in any way work with the referendum, while awaiting the final verdict in the case (which came in the fall: the referendum was found to be unconstitutional).

However, Zelaya did not allow himself to be constrained by the decision of the Supreme Court, but continued with the plans as if nothing had happened. The whole cabinet put everything else aside. The ballots were printed abroad.

Many things happened in rapid succession on a few days from June 25th to 29th, 2009.

When the ballots arrived to Honduras (reportedly from Venezuela) they were offloaded on an air force base. As the military refused to distribute them, referring to the legal injunction, Zelaya fired the joint chiefs of staff, general Vasquez. The other generals resigned in protest. The Supreme Court intervened and declared the firing of Vasquez illegal, and that all the generals remained in duty with full authority.

Also at this time, Zelaya, in the head of a large mob, went to the air force base to physically retrieve the ballots from the military, in whose custody the court had left them. Legally speaking the president thus took by force evidential material that the court had impounded.

On the evening of June 25th, the Attorney General brought prosecution of the president to the Supreme Court, and on the 26th the court issued an arrest order for the president of the republic to the military. So far everything was in agreement with the constitution. However, when the military arrested Zelaya at dawn on June 28th they violated the law by letting the accused go into exile, rather than to bring him to justice as they had been ordered to.

The reason for the arrest to take place on the 28th at dawn was that the referendum was planned for that day, and the intelligence service feared (according to unconfirmed information, of course) that Zelaya planned to carry out a coup, a so-called “autogolpe”, within 24 hours, under the pretext of the (forged) results of the (illegal) referendum.

The military considered that the safety of the republic would be at risk if the president was put in jail. Exactly what they based their evaluation on I can of course not know, but the rumor says that they were concerned that the enemies of the nation already had plans to free him by force. According to media reports as much as a hundred armed foreign infiltrators were arrested in the next few days, which would seem to support that version. With the justification of national self-defense and necessity (I don’t know what the legal terms are), the generals thus deliberately violated the court’s order to bring the president before them to face justice. Instead, they let him escape the country by dropping him off in Costa Rica (although not in pajamas, he was dressed).

The popularly elected Congress convened the same day, declared Zelaya deposed according to the Constitution, and elected an interim president to replace him until the end of the term: January 27th, 2010. There is a succession order that starts with the vice president and ends with the president of the Congress and the president of the Supreme Court. However, everyone before the president of the Congress had already resigned, why he, Roberto Micheletti, was sworn in as president. That decision, as well as the decision to depose Zelaya, was reconfirmed in early December with a new vote in Congress, with the count 111-14.

On November 29th the regular election was held to the presidency, resulting in victory for Porfirio Lobo Sosa.

The Attorney General has been investigating the actions of the military on June 28th, and January 6th, 2010, a case was brought to the Supreme Court against 6 generals, the entire military leadership. The charges are abuse of power (by not putting the president in jail, in violation of the arrest order), and illegally expatriating a citizen (which violates the Constitution). Yesterday the Supreme Court agreed to take the case, and appointed its president, Justice Rivas, to take it.

It means that prosecution now has been initiated against all main actors who broke the law in the intense days from June 25 to 28, 2009. However, while the militaries have declared themselves willing to face justice, ex president Zelaya appears to have no intention to answer to his deeds. He has openly mocked both courts and Congress since last spring, and is now taking refuge in the former embassy of Brazil in Tegucigalpa. He cannot leave the building without getting arrested – no less than 18 charges on 2 separate arrest orders are awaiting him outside the door.

Looking ahead, since Brazil is not recognizing the head of state of Honduras, they can have no embassy in the country. They have made it clear to Zelaya that he must leave on January 27 at the latest – the day when Lobo takes office and Zelaya’s term would have ended anyway. Unless amnesty is granted before that, or he accepts political asylum in a country outside Central America, he will go directly from the embassy to jail. It is probably partly for this reason that Obama is now pushing for amnesty, something the Congress will start debating on Monday.

It is, however, already clear that the amnesty (as proposed) will not cover common crimes such as corruption, so regardless of any potential amnesty for political crimes (read: trying to rewrite the constitution), Zelaya will be arrested anyway on charges of corruption. An interesting aspect is that after he has been granted a possible political amnesty, he cannot apply for political asylum abroad. Which means that he cannot escape the charges of corruption, so the chances of getting him convicted on those charges might actually increase by granting him political amnesty. I wonder if those pushing for amnesty have considered that?

PS. Here is a good revealing blog post on how mishandled Honduras has been by MSM, mainstream media.

The sensitive issue of amnesty in Honduras

On Monday the National Congress of Honduras will start debating a political amnesty for the events of the recent political crisis which culminated with the deposing of president Manuel Zelaya on 2009-06-28. In the Guaymuras talks, which culminated in a pact signed by both Zelaya and his successor, interim president Roberto Micheletti, the question of amnesty was left out. Nobody asked for it. However, the president-elect, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, and the United States of America want it, and that is why it is back on the table.

It seems that amnesty is something the international community wants, but not the Hondurans. So where is the dividing line?

Nobody wants amnesty that leads to impunity for corruption. The amnesty that is discussed is for political crimes, such as Zelaya’s alleged attempt to illegally change the constitution, the militaries’ alleged crime in expatriating Zelaya, and acts committed during street protests by Zelaya supporters. I write alleged because everyone should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, although Zelaya is also a fugitive of justice (and the military assisted him in escaping). The amnesty being discussed is specifically for political crimes and related non-political misdemeanors, or something like that. That is, participating in an illegal street protest would be covered, and also certain acts of vandalism and similar committed during that protest.

Corruption, for which Zelaya is also accused, is not covered by the amnesty as proposed in the bill.

Congress also has to keep in mind that the accord signed by Zelaya and Micheletti as a result of the Guaymuras talks, called the Tegucigalpa/San José Accord, stipulates that a truth and reconciliation commission is created by the next president – which we know now will be Porfirio Lobo. If a blanket amnesty is given without any form of confession to the acts, then what are the chances that the person will talk to the truth and reconciliation commission?

Furthermore, the right to a free and fair trial cuts both ways. Just as the state has a right to prosecute a suspect, the suspect has a right to defend himself against accusations, to get a court of law to declare him innocent, and to clear his name and honor. In other words, it may not be that everyone concerned want an amnesty.

The case that comes to mind primarily is the military leadership. There are prima facie evidence that they broke the law, but their defense is that it was justifiable national self-defense – as when you shoot an intruder in your home in self-defense. A court of law can judge them and declare them innocent of any wrong-doing.

If Congress decides to deny them the possibility to clear their names in a court of law, then the legislative body owes them the courtesy to explain why it is not in the national interest that the case gets tried in a court, and to clear them of suspicion of wrong-doing by explicitly accepting the argument of national self-defense.

However, Congress can avoid this problem by doing as follows: Stipulate that each person who wishes to benefit from the amnesty has to report in writing what acts he or she wishes to accept amnesty for. It has the additional benefit of enabling the police to declare the case solved and thus decrease their case load. Furthermore, it has a cathartic effect by forcing people to own up to their acts, thus truly creating a new baseline for society. In fact, it could provide much of the benefit of the future truth and reconciliation commission.

This amnesty can of course prevent the prosecution of the military leadership, initiated this week. I had hoped that the defense arguments from the military would provide interesting insights into the role of Hugo Chávez in Honduras’ political crisis, in terms of armed infiltrators on the ground. However, everything is up in the air now so we can just wait and see what happens. Stay tuned, because this thriller will continue.

PS. The amnesty bill as proposed focuses in the preamble entirely on those who helped with the illegal referendum, the so-called “poll” about installing a so-called “quarta urna”, fourth ballot box. It can be worth reminding that although so much effort was put on writing a new constitution, nobody ever, to the best of my knowledge, stated a single concrete example of what it was that needed to change, or why.

The Honduran military leadership will be prosecuted

The Supreme Court of Justice convened today at 15:00 local time in Tegucigalpa to consider the case brought before it by the Attorney General. They decided to take the case, and appointed the president of the court as the justice to handle the case, according to information that came out a couple of minutes ago.

Footnote. It appears that the decision to prosecute the military top brass has indeed convinced Micheletti’s detractors that the removal of Mr. Zelaya was no coup. Not even the left-leaning New York Times is using the word coup any longer, when reporting about Honduras.

Honduras – vad som egentligen hände

Det har varit så mycket felaktig information i media om krisen i Honduras så det kan vara på sin plats att ännu en gång sammanfatta utvecklingen.

Manuel Zelaya valdes till president för 4 år sedan. Honduras grundlag tillåter inte presidenten att väljas om, och det är förbjudet att på något sätt försöka avlägsna det förbudet. Det oaktat utlyste Zelaya i mars 2009 en folkomröstning om frågan, i ett försök att kringgå förbudet. Åklagaren tog fallet till domstol, och domstolen förbjöd alla i Honduras att på något sätt medarbeta i omröstningen i väntan på slutligt avgörande av saken (detta kom i höstas, varvid domstolen dömde att omröstningen var grundlagsvidrig).

Zelaya lät sig emellertid inte stoppas av högsta domstolens uttryckliga förbud, utan drev oförtrutet planerna vidare. Hela regeringen lade allting annat åt sidan. Valsedlarna trycktes utomlands.

Många saker hände sedan i snabb takt under den 25 till 29 juni, 2009.

När valsedlarna kom till Honduras via ett militärt flygfält, vägrade militären att lämna ut dem, med hänvisning till högsta domstolens beslut. Zelaya avskedade då chefen för militärstaben, general Vasquez, varefter cheferna för de respektive vapengrenarna omedelbart sade upp sig i protest. Högsta domstolen ingrep och förklarade avskedandet olagligt, och att militärerna kvarstod på sina respektive poster med fulla befogenheter.

Zelaya tågade samtidigt i spetsen för en stor folkskara till flygbasen för att handgripligen ta valsedlarna från militären, i vars vård högsta domstolen hade lämnat dem. Juriskt sett tog alltså presidenten med våld material som högsta domstolen hade beslagtagit.

Den 25 juni väckte riksåklagaren åtal mot presidenten i högsta domstolen, och den 26 juni utfärdade högsta domstolen en häktningsorder för presidenten till militären. Så långt gick allt helt korrekt tillväga enligt grundlagen. Men då militären den 28 juni i gryningen arresterade presidenten så begicks minst ett fel: Zelaya flögs till Costa Rica, istället för att sättas i fängelse.

Att ingripandet kom just den 28 juni i gryningen var för att folkomröstningen var planerad till den dagen, och underrättelsetjänsten befarade (enligt obekräftade uppgifter, naturligtvis) att Zelaya planerade genomföra en statskupp, en så kallad “autogolpe”, inom 24 timmar, under förevändning av (det förfalskade) resultatet av folkomröstningen.

Militären befarade att det var förenat med en stor risk för rikets säkerhet att sätta presidenten i fängelse. Exakt vad de baserade sitt beslut på vet jag naturligtvis inte, men rykten säger att de var oroliga för att landets fiender redan hade planer förberedda för att frita honom. Inom några dagar hade mycket riktigt uppåt hundra beväpnade utländska infiltratörer, som av allt att döma verkade för främmande makt, arresterats, enligt tidningsuppgifter. Generalerna bröt därför medvetet mot domstolens order att bura in presidenten så att han kunde ställas inför rätta, baserat på principen om nationellt nödvärn.

Den folkvalda kongressen sammanträdde samma dag, avsatte Zelaya, och valde en interimspresident att efterträda honom enligt grundlagen. Det finns en successionsordning som börjar med vicepresidenten, och slutar med kongressens talman och högsta domstolens ordförande. Dock hade alla personer före kongressens talman avgått redan tidigare, varför denne, Roberto Micheletti, svors in som president. Detta beslut, liksom beslutet att avsätta Zelaya, bekräftades i början av december i en ny omröstning i kongressen, med siffrorna 111 – 14.

Den 29 november hölls ordinarie val till presidentämbetet, varvid Porfirio Lobo Sosa valdes till ny president att tillträda den 27 januari i år.

Åklagarämbetet har under en längre tid utrett militärens agerande den 28 juni, och igår väcktes talan mot 6 ledande militärer i högsta domstolen. Åtalet gäller framför allt maktmissbruk i samband med exekveringen av arresteringsordern för Zelaya, och syftar vad jag kan förstå dels på att de landsförvisade en medborgare i strid med grundlagen, dels att de lät en efterlyst misstänkt brottsling undkomma rättvisan genom att låta honom lämna landet. Åklagaren har begärt att domstolen skall ta ställning till begäran inom 3 dagar. (De tog fallet den 7 januari, och utsåg domstolens ordförande Rivas till att handlägga det.)

Därmed har åtal nu väckts mot alla huvudaktörer som bröt mot lagen under de intensiva dagarna från den 25 till 28 juni, 2009. Dock, till skillnad från militärerna vilka förklarar sig villiga att möta rättvisan, har inte fd president Zelaya någon som helst avsikt att stå till svars för sina gärningar. Han har öppet hånat domstol och kongress sedan i våras förra året, och sitter nu på Brasiliens fd ambassad i Tegucigalpa. Han kan inte lämna den utan att bli arresterad – han har hela 18 åtalspunkter på 2 separata häktningsordrar att vänta.

Dock, eftersom Brasilien inte erkänner Honduras statschef så måste de antingen lämna ambassaden eller ändra sig, så de har gjort klart för Zelaya att han måste ut senaste den 27 januari – den dag då Lobo svärs in som president och Zelayas tid ändå skulle ha gått ut. Om inte amnesti beviljas innan dess, eller han accepterar politisk asyl i ett land utanför Centralamerika, så går han direkt från den fd ambassaden till fängelse. Det är bland annat därför USA nu insisterar på amnesti, något som kongressen skall börja debattera på måndag.

Amnestin kommer dock helt klart inte att omfatta vanlig kriminalitet som korruption, så oavsett eventuell amnesti för politiska brott så blir Zelaya ändå arresterad för korruption. En intressant vinkel är att om politisk amnesti beviljas, så kan han ju sedan inte söka och få politisk asyl utomlands. Vilket betyder att möjligheterna att döma honom för korruption kanske ökar om amnestin beviljas. Undrar om han tänkt på det?

Media: SvD, DN, Sydsvenskan, GP.

The entire military leadership of Honduras may get arrested

Original post 20:35 ET: Today an arrest order was requested for the entire military leadership in Honduras, including joint chiefs of staff general Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, the head of the air force, Venancio Cervantes, the comander of the navy, Luis Javier Prince, and the head of the army, general Garcia Padgett. As I have reported here previously (see Spanish interview; Miami Herald had an English translation of the interview with colonel Inestroza, page now expired), they exiled Zelaya from the country knowing it was a crime. They did so under the justification of national self-defense, similar to when the crew on a ship commits mutiny to save the ship from an incompetent captain.

To commit mutiny under such circumstances is not a crime, as is illustrated by the Danish court’s dealings with the mutiny on the Danish ships Christianus Quintus and Fridericus Quartus on March 4th, 1710, off present day Costa Rica. They let all the slaves free (their descendants can be found in Bluefields, Nicaragua, today) to prevent them all from dying of starvation. I have read the ships’ logs and the court proceedings in the Danish national archives, and in spite of everyone admitting to having committed mutiny, the court found it justifiable.

The Honduran generals will present themselves willingly to be judged, because they are equally convinced that they did the right thing. They fully expect to be exonerated by the court (source).

Some have insisted on calling the deposing of then president Zelaya on June 28 last year a military coup, and the interim president Roberto Micheletti a coupster ruling under the aegis of the military. It will be interesting to see what spin they will invent now to discount this development, or if they will do the honorable thing and admit that they have been wrong.

As regards media my bet is that they will ignore this rather than admitting that they have been wrong for half a year.

Update 22:35 ET: An hour after posting the above, CNN International has a story that still calls it a coup even though they some paragraphs down write that the military acted on orders from the Supreme Court. Newspeak indeed.

Update 23:00 ET: The Costarican newspaper nacion.com writes that Manuel Zelaya calls the prosecution of the military leadership a “trick”, and states that the Attorney General of Honduras has more responsibility for his deposing on June 28th than the militaries have. So… then it was not a coup, right?

Clarification: The Attorney General has asked the Supreme Court of Justice to decide within 3 days whether to take the case and issue an arrest warrant, or dismiss the case. It is probably of relevance that the National Congress will debate the issue of a political asylum on Monday, as I blogged about earlier today.

PS. Although I have no official reaction from the Micheletti administration, I have been told unofficially repeatedly since July or August that they wanted this to happen, so that the world would see that Honduras is a land of law. At the same time the separation of powers have prevented them from getting involved, why they have kept a low profile in public about it.

Swedish newspapers publish the same text from TT, which says that the Attorney General prosecutes the military leadership for abuse of power “during the coup that deposed president Manuel Zelaya”, and that “The Supreme Court as well as the Congress and the Civil Society leadership supported the coup against Zelaya.” Can anyone please explain why they call it a coup?

Amnesty to be debated in Honduras’ congress

In an article in El Heraldo late last night, it is clarified that the amnesty that I wrote about yesterday would be for the people who took to the streets to protest what they believed was a coup d’état, based on the mistake made by the international community – including the General Assembly of the United Nations – in classifying it as such.

In other words, the U.S. and others provoked unrest in Honduras by misinterpreting what happened, thus causing violence, and now they want the people who acted on their mistake to get amnesty. The Honduran congress will vote on such an amnesty on Monday. The amnesty will not include corruption and other (non-political) felonies committed by Zelaya, but it will include violence and property damage during street protests.

In the same session the congress will vote on leaving ALBA, the organization of states led by Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, since it turned out to be more political-military than commercial in nature. Although the treaty is written in such a way that only Venezuela can revoke it, Honduras considers that the South American nation has not lived up to its contractual obligations, by not delivering petroleum since June 28 last year.

The agreement includes delivery of petroleum products on very favorable credit terms. As part of the bill to leave the treaty Honduras plans on paying off the entire debt, and settle all related matters (including returning gifts) as a matter of honor. Similar bills have been introduced both by the sitting president and by a congressman from the party of the president elect.

Pepe Lobo is walking on thin ice in Honduras

The president-elect in Honduras, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, who will take office on January 27, is already skating on thin ice. In an interview with El Heraldo he is encouraging the interim president Roberto Micheletti to resign, and he is saying that he supports a political amnesty.

As can be seen from the comments online, neither of the positions sit well with those who elected him.

The reason Lobo, which means ‘wolf’, takes these positions is international pressure pure and simple. He has got an earful from abroad that if he does not do as he is being told, his government will not be recognized. And so he is complying, even if it means enraging his constituency – many of whom in the comments are making not so subtle remarks of him needing a size balls more similar to what Micheletti has.

Regardless if he is being coy and referring to amnesty for Zelaya, it does not help him. The deposed president Zelaya is very unpopular for the corruption, drug connections, and moral decline (the militaries who came to arrest him allegedly found him in bed not with his wife, but with one of his cabinet members). Most Hondurans want him to face justice, not amnesty. And if Lobo is referring to amnesty for Micheletti, that is even worse, since the majority do not consider that he did anything wrong in the first place.

Pepe is seen as insulting the nation if he suggests that those who deposed Zelaya would need amnesty.

Porfirio Lobo would be well advised to distinguish between legal and political matters, and not get involved at all, not a word, with legal matters.

The next time foreign dignitaries, like Kelly who came to Honduras today, brings up the issue of amnesty and resignation, Pepe should tell him that “Honduras has a constitution and according to the constitution it is the Supreme Court of Justice that settles legal matters. The issue of who is the legitimate president is a legal matter and thus above my pay grade.”

Then he should change subject and for instance ask the American how come they haven’t been able to create a universal health insurance system yet, even though their Congress has been trying every year since the Great Depression. Take that.

USA is falling behind – I told you so…

Yesterday I heard on the Situation Room on CNN that the past decade has seen a tremendous economic decline of the US. The U.S. GDP’s stake in the global economy shrunk from 32% to 24% in the past decade. That is the worst decline of any nation except for the collapse of the Soviet Union, they said. Which brings to mind that the same professor who accurately predicted that the Soviet Union would collapse also has predicted that the US global empire will collapse. He moved up the year when G.W. Bush became president, to in the middle of the decade that is now starting.

When I moved to the US in 2002 I was surprised to find a country that was almost obsolete in terms of technology compared to Europe (GSM and SMS had almost no penetration, for instance), and which was very inefficient in many aspects in terms of how basic everyday things are done. Several sectors are totally dysfunctional in comparison to Europe, banking and health insurance being by far the worst. There seems to be no functioning competition (I later learned that health insurance as a business sector is actually allowed to fix prices by law, but they have no law that requires them to provide insurance). Also the government bureaucracy is inefficient. In comparison, Sweden – with a government bureaucracy that is known to be meticulous – appears as a miracle of speed and simplicity. While in Sweden you typically can file your taxes on a GSM mobile phone, in the U.S. it typically requires the assistance of a paid professional.

What shocked me was the discordance. At the same time as the U.S. had a GDP per capita that was one third higher than any other country, they seemed to be at least one third less efficient at what they were doing. Most things in the stores were imported from China, and the U.S. didn’t produce much that the rest of the world wanted to buy. Their insistence on using their own measurement system instead of the metric system pretty much disqualified their products from any application in which they have to be interfaced to anything else, or to be repaired abroad – a disadvantage that pretty much affects all manufactured goods. The Chinese have solved this by making a unique U.S. version for export using the U.S. measurement system instead of the metric one, but here in the U.S. it is so hard and costly to find metric raw materials for producing metric products for export, that it becomes totally impossible to produce items for export at competitive prices (keep in mind that the costs here already are the highest, even without this handicap).

Already in 2002 I thus predicted that the U.S. economy would collapse, for lack of competitiveness. Unfortunately, rather than realizing the situation and changing with the times, the Americans have been told by their leaders and media that the U.S. is the best country in the world. The impression they have got is that they are the best, and that they have something to teach the rest of the world rather than learn from it. And so the downfall has become inevitable.

The solution is of course to fix the systemic problems that caused this in the first time, as I have said to anybody who has cared to listen since 2002: Regulate banks so they have to provide good and timely services at a reasonable price, and ban immoral practices that are hurting the economy; regulate the health insurance so that every legal resident has access to health care, no exceptions, and so that everyone who is able to pitches in to pay for it; streamline the government, make different branches cooperate directly with each other, remove private consultants and build the competence within the government instead, and drastically reduce the number of politically appointed persons in favor of staff hired based on competence; switch to the metric system not just on paper but in reality as well; and finally, stop destroying money and other countries alike by wasting trillions on the military, and invest money instead in educating the young Americans, with free education all the way up to college level.

Those are 5 areas of action that I believe are essential for turning the country around. It includes giving up the Empire. The Bush notion that the U.S. can be a global empire has to be abandoned. It is possible for a time, but the price is that after this limited time, the homeland will be destroyed financially, and it will take a hundred years to come back. This is not guesswork, it is just a matter of using empirical data from history. The U.S. is far from the first country to try to turn into an almighty empire. It always ends the same way, even if the details differ.

The only thing that can keep the U.S. ahead is brains. The first step is to become aware of the reality. Given the horribly inadequate news reporting in the U.S. one might be tempted to conclude that the underlying reason for the collapse is the collapse of the TV News in America, which happened about two decades ago as a result of president Reagan’s deregulation. So to the list can be added to create a tax-funded TV and radio News service that is totally free from any advertising and sponsoring money, and that has to be un-biased and objective, with some sort of oversight and complaints system. NPR and PBS today are total jokes.

Can this be done? Yes, definitely. Will it be done? No, I don’t think so, because there is no political will, and no political possibility, due to the way the U.S. constitution is written. Ultimately, I believe the U.S. needs a constitutional reform that changes the form of government to a parliamentarian republic, with a prime minister alongside the president, and with proportional representation. Only by strengthening democracy in such a way do I think it is possible to defeat the powerful special interests that have now shot themselves in the foot so badly.