Tag Archives: amnesty

Zelaya is granted amnesty for political crimes

Honduras congress voted last night to give amnesty to politicians, for the political crimes committed in connection with then president Zelaya’s attempt at overthrowing the form of government. He openly ignored and even ridiculed the other branches of government, until the Supreme Court of Justice issued an arrest order for him, and Congress deposed him on charges of treason, among others. It is for those political crimes that he is now being given amnesty. The charges of corruption still stand.

The Congress has to vote twice for the amnesty to take effect. The second vote will take place at 6 in the morning today, i.e., in about half an hour.

The Nationalists, the president elect’s party (he will be sworn in at 9 AM today), voted in favor, while the Liberal party, to which Zelaya and the interim president Micheletti belong, mostly abstained (just one in favor and one against).

The amnesty does not affect the supporters of Zelaya who in riots have caused property damage. Nor does it affect the police and military who had to confront those riots.

The amnesty was pressed on Honduras by the U.S., apparently against the will of the majority of its people. However, by explicitly not including the corruption charges, drug trafficking, and other non-political offenses, the politicians have tried to thread the needle. The amnesty only covers the political crimes of members of the Zelaya administration, according to La Prensa: terrorism, sedition, treason, and crimes against the form of government. Also common crimes in connection with the political ones are covered by the amnesty: usurpation of functions, violations of the rights of functionaries, disobedience, and abuse of authority.

Congressman Ascencio said in the debate that the purpose is to bring real peace to the country, but the amnesty will not do that, why he voted against it.

Congressman Saavedra from the Liberal party, who was president of the congress for the last 7 months, said that they abstained from voting because the bill had not been open for public comments, and because the Truth Commission should be formed first so that it becomes clear who exactly it is who will benefit from the amnesty, since until today nobody considers themselves in need of any amnesty.

The small parties UD and PINU voted against the amnesty, UD because they believe the purpose of the amnesty is to favor those who deposed Zelaya, not Zelaya. UD got less than 2% of the votes in the last election.

In my modest opinion, this amnesty is very bad for the country. It will be used abroad, by news agencies like AFP (Agence Faux Propagande?) as proof that there was a coup d’état, even though this has been proven wrong in the supreme court. Furthermore, it does not cover those poor souls who, believing the international media’s assertion that it was a coup, went out in resistance to the alleged coup and violated the laws. They are left facing justice for their crimes. They, the small people on the streets, are left responsible for the mistakes and/or deliberate lies of international media! Shame on the liars, shame on those who pressed this disgraceful amnesty bill on Honduras.

There appears to be no limits. Many international media have never told the truth about the events around June 25 to 28, 2009. Some foreign media, e.g. Chinese Xinhua, even go so far as to bold-faced lies, such as to claim that the amnesty applies also to the military. If there is anything everyone should learn from this, it is that you cannot trust media, you have to investigate for yourself.

Anecdotally, foreign investors were looking favorably on investing in Honduras as this year started, but they put the plans on hold when Lobo signed the deal with the Dominican president, giving Zelaya free passage away from Honduras and justice. Now, even worse, I would think. What are the chances of getting him to stand trial for the extraordinarily large corruption in his government? Pepe Lobo has – already before he took office – squandered most of the capital of trust that Micheletti had built up in the population for the government.

If what the international community wanted was to make sure that Honduras remains a third world recipient of aid and producer of cheap goods, then they have probably succeeded. Unless, that is, the Hondurans stand arm in arm, push back, and demand accountability. I hope the UCD, Union Civica Democratica, continues to hold the president’s feet to the fire.

Footnote: On his last day in office, president Micheletti yesterday signed a bill into law that makes Honduras leave ALBA, the Chavez-led group of countries that also includes Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, etc.

Recommended: Como se salvó la democracia en Honduras (La Prensa), Mel Zelaya was not wearing pajamas (La Gringa’s Blogicito).

Zelaya prepares to leave Honduras

The time is approaching for Zelaya’s departure from Honduras, this time with his tail between his legs. Even as Pepe Lobo will take over as president in less than 15 hours, Zelaya does not dare to face justice. Some hero for the left!

Let it be clear that Zelaya was not deposed for switching from a liberal to a communist platform in the middle of his term – although he did – but for attempting a coup d’état, an autogolpe. The poster below is from Zelaya’s new political base, representing (according to the last election) at the most a few per cent of the population.

Poster from Zelaya's new political base.
Poster from Zelaya's new political base.

This movement does not recognize the last election. They consider the democratic government of Honduras an “oligarchic dictatorship,” regardless of who is the president. Their one and only goal is to overthrow the form of government. They do not limit themselves to legal methods in their fight. In fact, they do not recognize the laws of the republic, and they do not recognize the authority of the forces who uphold law and order. They won’t tell you any of this to your face, but it follows from their positions.

This is Zelaya’s political base in Honduras. This is the “democracy” the world is supporting.

Meanwhile, the Honduran Congress, hard pressed by foreign powers (read: U.S.A.), has started debating an amnesty bill again. Hondurans don’t want it, mostly because they want to see Zelaya to pay for his alleged crimes, but the “resistencia” because they want to see Micheletti to pay for his alleged “military coup” (even though it has now been proven in court that it was no coup, but that does not sway the “resistencia”, since they don’t recognize the supreme court either).

In foreign press the amnesty bill is presented in a completely different light: As something invented by the “coupsters” to protect themselves.

To me, it thus seems that the amnesty bill is a sword forced onto Honduras by the U.S. with the intention that they fall on it. I sure hope they see through this scheme and do what is best for the country: Take a stance for the rule of law, and transparency.

The question of responsibility can wait until the Truth Commission, agreed to in the Guaymuras dialogue, has been formed. What’s the urgency?

Getting the coupster out of Honduras

According to a report in El Heraldo,* the president of the Supreme Court of Honduras, Jorge Rivera, has said that the “salvoconducto” that the new president, Porfirio Lobo, intends to issue to Zelaya on Wednesday, will allow the former coupster to leave the country. However, it will not relieve him of criminal responsibility for the 18 charges that are pending against him.

The only thing that can eliminate the political and related criminal charges, notably high treason, is an amnesty, which only the National Congress can issue. The previous Congress earlier this month tabled the amnesty bill that Lobo had requested. The new Congress, in which Lobo’s Nationalist party has absolute majority, and which was sworn in today, has scheduled to debate the amnesty tomorrow, Tuesday, the day before Lobo takes office.

The amnesty bill as written does not include the common crimes unrelated to political crimes, e.g. corruption, for which Zelaya is also charged. It would even be unconstitutional in Honduras to give amnesty for such crimes. Incidentally, neither Micheletti’s nor Zelaya’s supporters want any amnesty, they say.

Zelaya attempted to commit a coup d’état on June 28, but was stopped by the other branches of government. Led by the Sandinista revolutionary D’Escoto (a leftist ally of Zelaya, Chávez, and Castro), the General Assembly of the United Nations declared the democratic institutions “coupsters”, and demanded that the real coupster, Zelaya, be reinstated as president.

Also tomorrow, the Supreme Court of Justice will sentence the military leadership for having allowed the coupster Zelaya to leave the country, rather than to throw him in jail as they had been instructed to do. The militaries’ defense is that they acted to protect the nation, and – from what I gather – save lives from expected armed jail-breaking attempts by Venezuelan and Nicaraguan agents who had been arriving the preceding days.

*2010-01-26: This is contradicted in today’s El Heraldo. The justice will not state an opinion because the case may come before him, he says. The previous story was thus in error.

China spreads fake “news” about Honduras

In an article published a few minutes ago, a Chinese outlet is spreading a completely false and misleading story about Honduras (repeated here). The text claims that the Honduran Congress voted to grant amnesty. In fact it did the exact opposite; it tabled the bill until the next session of Congress.

On January 25th, those elected in the November elections will take over in the legislative body. They were elected after the change of president, which happened June 28 last year. In other words, the question of amnesty will be settled by parliamentarians who were elected after the event in question. That assures that the will of the people got heard.

However, interim president Micheletti has proposed a still more direct participation of the people in the decision, namely by holding a referendum.

Some bloggers – including this – have proposed that IF an amnesty is to be considered, it should be conferred only on condition of the person first confessing the crimes. This could be either in writing, or in a testimony, such as before that Truth Commission that is to be formed the next few months as part of the Tegucigalpa/San José Accord. In fact, the question of amnesty could be combined with the Truth Commission, and, if Congress so decides, it could be left for the people to decide in a referendum if an honest testimony should be rewarded by granting amnesty for the confessed crimes. I’m sure South Africa can help with sharing some experience.

But as for the fake news stories, that is just pathetic.

Prosecution not amnesty in Honduras

Update 2010-01-13 16:40 ET: The prosecuted militaries have announced that they will not seek amnesty. They trust in that the court will declare them not guilty, which is more honorable than accepting amnesty. The thousands of people who helped Zelaya carry out the illegal referendum may also face very severe charges under the constitution, since they violated a direct court order, encouraged by the president, who said about the court, “Let them come and arrest me!”, which they did.

Update 2010-01-12 21:10 ET: The Congress in Honduras has postponed the debate on a possible amnesty until the next congress, which convenes at the end of January. The amnesty had been requested by the president-elect, Porfirio Lobo. With the amnesty off the table for several weeks, the prosecution of the top military brass for having allowed the then president Zelaya to escape justice in June will have more time. The process will start Thursday this week.

Original post 2010-01-11 19:26 ET: Rumor is that the amnesty is off the table. The call for amnesty came from USA and other nations, and was echoed by the president-elect, since he of course wants to be recognized as the legitimate president in order to be able to carry out his agenda. However, left-leaning countries and websites, taking the lead from Hugo Chávez, fiercely criticized the amnesty. It appears the Hondurans have decided that if neither Hondurans nor their strongest critics want it, then what’s the point.

This of course means that the prosecution of the militaries who helped Zelaya escape justice will go forward, as well as the prosecution of Zelaya himself unless he seeks political asylum.

Note that NY Times has changed vocabulary and now calls it an ouster rather than a coup. Also BBC Mundo refrains from using the word coup in their coverage of the topic (except when recounting what Zelaya said, since he will never stop calling it a coup regardless of his deposing being initiated by the Supreme Court and carried out by the National Congress).

January 15 also BBC in English ran an unbiased story in which the word coup was only used in reference to the world reaction.

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.

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.