Tag Archives: election

Why the Dems may lose Miami -> Florida -> USA

This year Florida will elect a new senator, in a three-way race between the Democrat Kendrick Meek, the Independent Charlie Crist, and the Republican Marco Rubio. Chances are slim that Meek will win. This is usually attributed to Democratic voters voting for “anybody who can beat Rubio,” but there may be another factor that the pundits have missed.

It is the traditional Achilles heel of the Democrats: Softness on foreign policy. The one causing the dissatisfaction was not Meek, but president Obama, secretary of state Clinton, and Senate foreign relations committee chairman Kerry. And the constituency group that this particularly affects are the Latinos.

Keep in mind that Miami is a Latino city, predominantly. And that Miami is big enough to flip the vote in all of Florida one way or the other. And that Florida is big enough to flip the national vote of president one way or the other – but I’m sure nobody will ever forget that.

Obama did get a significant support by Latinos in 2008, but that support has completely dissipated by now. There may be several reasons, but it seems to me that one reason in particular has not been getting the attention it deserves: Obama’s Latin America policy.

The crucial issue is Honduras

Actually, Honduras is just the tip of the iceberg, the overall issue being the spread of communism in Latin America, which the Democrats seem to do nothing to stop. In fact, it appears to many as though they actually like this change. And that is a sure way to lose voters in Miami…

The different perspective does not come from a difference in world view, but in a difference in information. Latinos typically watch Spanish-language news, the biggest of which is of course Univisión. These networks cover Latin America closely, while English-language networks give about the same amount of coverage to Latin America as they give to Mozambique, or Mongolia, or the Moon for that matter. When it comes to foreign countries about 99% of their coverage has been devoted to Iraq and Afghanistan the last few years.

When the president of Honduras was deposed on June 28, 2009, it therefore came as lightning from a clear sky, for the English-speakers in the U.S. Naturally, they believed the network when they said it was a military coup. They had no reason to think otherwise. English-speaking Democrats either agreed with Obama’s policy, or thought he didn’t go far enough.

Latinos (and others who prefer Spanish-language news due to it having higher quality), on the other hand, knew that a severe political crisis was playing out in Honduras. They knew that the president was openly defying the Supreme Court, the popularly elected Congress, all other institutions of government, and that he was leading a mob against his own military. They had heard over and over that he was suspected of carrying out an auto-golpe, and they knew that he was ignoring the checks and balances of the constitution. They also knew that several other presidents in Latin America had done the same thing in recent years, and that nobody had stopped them: Chávez, Correa, Morales.

When Honduras stopped Zelaya, many, if not most, Latinos in Miami considered it an anti-coup rather than a coup. Honduras became “the little country that could.” Virtually overnight, Obama-stickers disappeared from almost all cars in Miami.

When it comes to Latin America, Washington is rather ignorant. It is clear that at least some of them believe the outrageous lies and spin, no matter how lunatic it really is, that is being prepared by Hugo Chávez and signed by Mel Zelaya. Perhaps they haven’t realized that Mel sold his soul to Chávez to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Or perhaps they don’t understand what Chávez is up to. Or else, perhaps they haven’t been able to come up with a counter-strategy, so they just stall for time. Who knows.

Meanwhile, unless Obama clearly changes policy visavi Honduras within the next two weeks, my prediction is that Miami will vote for Charlie Crist. Marco Rubio is probably too extreme for the majority (“miamians” may be fiscally conservative, but they are socially progressive), so in an effort to make sure that he won’t win, I figure that many Dems will vote for Crist.

If Obama’s present policy continues for two more years, chances are it will be his last in the White House.

The option

What option does Obama have visavi Honduras? First and foremost, he must clearly distance himself from the outrageous lies that Zelaya is spreading. Secondly, he must make it clear that he understands that,

  1. the Supreme Court of Honduras had the legal authority to issue an arrest order for the president,
  2. there was due cause for the Supreme Court to issue that arrest warrant on June 26,
  3. that the military in Honduras is constitutionally authorized to carry out tasks only done by the police in most other nations (and that it was Zelaya who started using the military for police work on a systematic scale),
  4. that the expatriating of Zelaya was a crime, but that the expatriating of Zelaya does not in any way relieve Zelaya from responsibility for the crimes he carried out before being expatriated,
  5. that the behavior of the security forces during and after the expatriation of Zelaya has been the target of systematic demonization by a deliberately executed and very refined propaganda apparatus, directed by Venezuela’s ruler Hugo Chávez,
  6. that the interim president Micheletti did all that was in his power to maintain public order and security, and to safeguard human rights, in spite of an onslaught of attack by foreign agents, paid demonstrators, and vilification in international media,
  7. that the Attorney General did prosecute the military for the expatriation of Zelaya, and that the Supreme Court did take up the case, but dismissed charges, and
  8. that the Supreme Court of Justice, democratically and constitutionally selected, is the highest legal authority in the country, which means that their rulings are the final word in the matter, as regards the sovereign Republic of Honduras.

A speech to this effect would serve several important purposes: First, it would win back at least a part of the lost support among Latinos who don’t want to see communism take over their native countries. Second, it would assure Hondurans in Honduras that the world has not gone completely mad, and that the rule of law still is the principle upon which civilization is built. Third, it would send a message to president Ortega in Nicaragua that USA has not thrown in the towel to Chávez, so he better stop his plans for an auto-golpe.

Finally, and most importantly, it would set a firm base of law for negotiating a new social pact in Honduras. The spread of popular tyranny in Latin America can be stopped by making it clear that a “constituyente” (i.e., overthrowing the constitution and letting a few more or less self-appointed persons write a new one without democratic input) is totally unacceptable, and that stopping a constituyente by any legal means possible is not just acceptable, but the duty of all who have sworn an oath of office to defend the constitution.

Whatever Obama does, he has to evaluate the strategy carefully, as a seasoned chess player would. Unless he recognizes that Chávez is actively waging a cold war against him, he will stand no chance. Nor will the position of the United States of America in the World.

Chávez’s Dictatorship is Consolidated

Venezuela’s president, or dictator – depending on whom you ask – Hugo Chávez Frías, has declared that according to him, the government now owns a minority stake of 25.8% in Globovisión, and insists that he has the right to appoint a director. The person he has in mind is Mario Silva, a talk show host on state TV who is using his platform to vilify Globovisión.

The majority owner of Globovisión, Guillermo Zuloaga, says to Miami Herald that the claim is “absurd” and that Chávez has his facts wrong.

Last month an arrest warrant was issued for Mr. Zuloaga and his son, who fled the country and are now, reportedly, considering seeking political asylum in the US.

Globovisión is the last TV-network critical of Chávez that remains in Venezuela. They reach 42% of the population with 24-hour news that has a critical angle to the regime.

On September 26 parliamentary elections will be held. If Chávez follows through on his intentions, there will be no free and fair elections, since free and fair elections requires a free debate, which requires that there is more than one voice in media.

Judging from the acts of Chávez this year, he is getting increasingly desperate in his efforts to remain in power. The last parliamentary elections 5 years ago the opposition unwisely boycotted, giving him an easy victory. This time they are instead united behind a single candidate in each precinct.

In February Chávez had the judge María Lourdes Afiuni imprisoned for setting a person free after three years without trial. He was released since the prosecutor consistently failed to show up at scheduled trials. Although the law says he couldn’t be held for more than two years, his release caused Chávez to get furious on TV, and order her incarceration. This caused the European Parliament to issue a condemnation of Venezuela on July 8, 2010 and calling for them to be invited to monitor the elections September 26. To which as we have seen, Chávez responded by figuratively giving them the finger, arresting his outspoken political opponent Alejandro Peña Esclusa on patently false charges, on July 12.

In March one of Chávez’s judges had an opposition politician imprisoned just for demanding an investigation (on Globovisión) of the accusations made by a Spanish judge regarding possible contacts between the Venezuelan government and drug-smuggling and terrorist organizations such as FARC and ETA.

Unless very drastic measures, and extreme pressure is put on Venezuela now, there seems to be no hope for democracy this year. There must be a free opposition media, and there must be independent election observers, both during the election campaign and the actual election and vote counting. However, remember Stalin’s words, “it is not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes.” Venezuela uses its own, state-controlled electronic voting machines.

It may be that the only way the Venezuelan people can get rid of Chávez is through a legal process that does not involve elections. The fact that such a process can work, peacefully, has been demonstrated many times the last 20 odd years, from East Germany to Honduras. There is no reason why it would not work also in Venezuela.

Honduras, ugly duckling turned swan

Today people around the president of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, feel like the victors of the election, even though the other party won. The reason being that the really important victory in Sunday’s election was that the people of Honduras came out in record numbers to vote, in obvious spite of Zelaya’s call for election boycott. This is a clear signal to the world that Honduras supports the interim regime, and rejects the world’s calls for Zelaya’s reinstatement. After this, no respectable democracy can continue claiming that democracy demands Zelaya’s reinstatement.

Roberto Micheletti never managed to get elected president by the people. He had perhaps not sufficient popular appeal, his demeanor being too serious. In June he was, however, elected interim president by the national congress, itself elected by the people. Today a large proportion of Hondurans, perhaps even the majority, consider that he was the right man at the right place at the right time. His frank but still respectful words when he addressed high foreign visitors gave many Hondurans tears in their eyes out of newfound national pride.

The poor in Honduras are quite likely poorer than in any other Latin American country, and the land once was the archetypical banana republic, disregarded by citizens and foreigners alike. This historical view is revived not at least in comments in foreign media and blogs, by those who uncritically call the arrest of Zelaya on the court’s order a military coup. For the majority of Hondurans the old image is now for always a part of the past. The country has grown a backbone, and is now living by its motto: Free, Sovereign, and Independent. The only ones to not embrace this new view are those who are of the notion that it was a military coup; they still see the country as a banana republic.

How could the tiny, poor, and despised country of Honduras withstand Chávez’s attempts to introduce the Bolivarian Revolution, when Venezuela, Ecuador, or Bolivia could not? As if in a fairytale by H.C. Andersen, the heroic deed was executed by the one the reader least expected it from. In 2009, Honduras the ugly duckling grew up to be a swan.

However, just like in a fairytale the transformation was painful and difficult. The problem for Honduras was that in in order to defend its newfound (this in only the 8th election) democracy, it had to arrest its own president for treason, and the whole world – without exception! – condemned that act as a military coup.

The treason of Zelaya consisted in plotting to overthrow the constitution, a coup quite simply. A contributing reason why Honduras managed to stop the coup was that they recognized the pattern from Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia, and that they could see the detrimental effect of passivity in Venezuela. Another factor might be that Honduras has strong family ties with Palestine. The Palestinians have first hand experience of the risk of giving even a finger to the one who desires to take ones land. The decision to arrest Zelaya was of course communicated to key groups including business organizations, in which Palestinians are prominent. The cultural experience from the Middle East has quite likely contributed to the decisiveness of the private sector to act, and the preparedness to stand firm even in the face of harsh economical sanctions.

Also the U.S. was consulted, but Senator John Kerry allegedly stopped the original plan to arrest Zelaya the night between June 25 and 26. It is not hard to understand why; it would of course have been better to make the arrest order public first, so that nobody would get the erroneous impression that it was a military coup. On this issue everyone I have talked to in Honduras agree, even those who were in on the plans. Two nights later the plan was carried out without informing the U.S. in advance. When I found out the details it was through TV, and my reaction was to get quite angry at the stupidity of doing it in secret, following the exact procedures of a classical military coup.

On the other hand, one has to consider their situation when they took the decision. The risk with making it public was that there might be an armed uprising, led by armed infiltrators from Venezuela mainly. It is totally clear that the procedure was designed to create a minimum of bloodshed and property damage. Nobody can know what would have happened if they had acted openly according to democratic principles. When passing judgment one has to keep in mind that Zelaya himself did not follow the democratic principles, and that he instructed his followers to also ignore them.

Undoubtedly one has to grant a democracy the right to defend itself, and to use the level of force that is required. It was clear already June 25 that Zelaya was a threat to democracy, based on his open contempt for the other branches of government, because that was the day he published a decree creating a referendum that the Supreme Court of Justice already had forbidden. It is thus perfectly possible to create a credible defense for the actions taken by the other branches of government in deposing Zelaya.

The hardships that subsequently befell Honduras, and the determined and principled defense that the little country put up for its democracy, is the stuff of fairy-tales. In no situation the protagonist could chose an easy way out; every step of the way Honduras had to go the hard and narrow road. But as if in a fairy-tale they survived every test, often by demonstrating some unexpected skill or using some trick that nobody had thought of.

Now the country has managed to hold free and fair elections. In spite of weeks of bombs placed by terrorists who wanted to discourage people from voting, the percentage of people who showed up to vote was higher than in many years, and higher than in many old and established democracies (70%). It is a clear vote of confidence from the people in the democracy. People working for Micheletti see yesterday’s election as a big victory, even though it was the other party that won, technically. However, the real victory was in the turn-out, and that victory was for Honduras and the team led by Micheletti.

When it comes to democracy, Honduras was the the banana republic with one military coup after another, that stood up to the entire world, defended its constitution, and gave the world a lection in democracy in the process. Honduras is the ugly democracy-duckling that grew up to a democracy swan.

As a memory of this I created a pocket-sized 3D model of Honduras and inscribed it. It goes to a person who has dedicated a lot of time and effort to help this transition process, and who I hope will continue working for Honduras regardless of administration in charge.

Honduras in 3D on one side, and inscription on the other.
Honduras in 3D on one side, and inscription on the other.

The inscription reads in translation: “Honduras, 28 June 2009, stood up to the world and saved its democracy, under don Roberto Micheletti Bain”.

Media: SvD editorial, SvD news, WSJ.

Honduras election will be recognized

Panama announces that it will recognize the president who is elected on Nov 29 in Honduras, and who takes office of January 27, 2010, provided that the elections are fair and transparent. At the same time, it is announced that the mayors of Guatemala City and San Salvador will be observers during the election.

The interim government of Roberto Micheletti has as its main goal for its short existence to make sure the elections are fair, transparent, and that the elected president gets internationally recognized. For this same purpose it was reported yesterday that four of the six presidential candidates, those that signed on to the San José accord, will be traveling to the US in the next few days to meet with the Obama administration regarding the issue of future recognition.

It seems to me that Obama is looking for a way to recognition that does not involve saying that there was no coup, although he must be aware that it was not a coup. The only other exit for him is if someone else takes the lead to reveal the truth, but so far no country has seemed willing to make the argument in the face of Chávez’s powerful propaganda machine (case in point: Chávez accuses Obama of the “coup in Honduras” although Chávez knows full well that [a] it was no coup, and [b] Obama was not supporting the events, on the contrary).

EU and USA are destabilizing Latin America

Last Thursday the EU declared that they do not intend to accept the election in Honduras on Nov 29, but it is not a final decision. This has motivated the opposition of redshirt chavistas, who want Zelaya back and the constitution to be rewritten, to intensify their campaign to derail the election using sabotage, street fights, and sheer terror methods.

The election is, however, constitutional, and it has nothing to do with the deposing of Zelaya as president on June 28. The demand from EU, USA and others that Zelaya is reinstated, is incompatible with the Constitution according to the Supreme Court of Justice.

What the world is demanding is thus that politics shall go before law, which violates the principles of a Rechtsstaat and liberal democracy. They probably hope and maybe even believe that Honduras will yield, but it seems a futile hope, perhaps based on ignorance, which in turn may be based on lack of interest.

In the worst case it is instead a cynical game in which the EU and USA try to avoid appearing as the enemy of Chávez. If they appear as his enemy it would serve his purposes, and he is a much greater threat. If so, the leading democracies in the world are deliberately sacrificing the liberal democracy of Honduras on the alter of world politics.

Regardless of which of the two explanations is true, it is wrong. When one is not absolutely sure about what applies (i.e., all the time), this rule applies:

One just has to do what is right,
and the circumstances may change before ones eyes;
things aren’t always what they seem to be.

It means in this case that one has to support law and democracy in Honduras, and preferably help make sure the election is fair, but at any rate not support opposing forces.

The threat of both the US and now the EU not to acknowledge the election results have motivated the anti-democratic forces in Honduras to intensify their campaign to derail the election. These groups, supported by Chávez and dressed in red shirts, want to replace the present liberal democracy in Honduras with something else, not yet specified what, but presumably something similar to the undemocratic system that Chávez has created in Venezuela, where corporations increasingly are taking over government functions. Their main goal is not that Zelaya returns, but that the present democratic constitution is abandoned.

Their methods to sabotage the election are unfortunately not entirely peaceful. The strategy includes a substantial amount of violence intended to spread terror. The methods are not new, as they were widely used by brownshirts in the 1930’s. The only difference now is that the chavistas are using red shirts.

The tragedy is that the actions of the EU and USA motivate these small but determined anti-democratic groups. If the world hadn’t supported them morally, Chávez might not have financed them, and the violence might soon have ebbed out. What is worse, if the EU and USA had declared clearly that they will not recognize the elections, those groups could have rested since they would have won. But by only threatening not to recognize the outcome, the groups feel compelled to increase the level of violence, since they cannot quite yet taste victory.

Thus, the EU and USA are sadly contributing very effectively in pulling Honduras into a multi-year problem with terrorism and guerrillas. The already sky-high common criminality with kidnappings and murders is likely to increase even more. Given the central location of Honduras in Central America, and the key position of the country as regards trade, a destabilization of Honduras can severaly affect the economy of the entire region. Furthermore, the smuggling of cocaine to the US will for sure increase, since that is an important source of income for these guerrilla groups.

I only hope that sanity will prevail, and that the world politicians will find so much wisdom that they cease to act “useful idiots” to Chávez, the commandante of the redshirts.

PS. Here is a sept 13 article on this topic.