Tag Archives: Ortega

World pushes Central America towards disaster

Through their response, the nations of the world are contributing to pushing the Central American nations of Nicaragua and Honduras towards disaster. They are already the poorest and second poorest countries of Latin America, and they are both in deep political crises of credibility in the rule of law.

The Nicaraguan president, former revolutionary leader Daniel Ortega, has stacked the Supreme Court illegally, is altering the Constitution illegally, and wants to run for re-election illegally. Yet the reaction from the world is almost non-existing.

The former Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, tried to stack the Supreme Court but was stopped by the president of Congress, Roberto Micheletti, tried to alter the Constitution but was stopped by the Supreme Court, and tried to make himself a dictator but was deposed by a near unanimous vote in Congress and the Supreme Court. The reaction of the world was to demand his reinstatement.

The stance of the world, including of course the U.S., seriously undermines the faith in the rule of law in Central America. The caudillo wannabe is rewarded, the democratic institutions are chastised.

If the world wanted to create chaos, conflict, even war, they couldn’t have devised a more efficient strategy than the one they are now implementing in Central America.

Several Viking time laws start with the statement “Countries are Built with Laws.” It reflects an understanding that functioning, peaceful societies require that there are rules that are universally accepted, and honored since there is confidence that they are enforced. What is going on in Central America is an undermining of these sentiments, since the presidents that attack the rule of law are seemingly rewarded, and the institutions and persons who defend the rule of law are punished by the world.

Yet, it may all be unintentional. As they say in Washington, never blame on malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

In the case of Zelaya, it is apparent to everyone that a crime was committed when he was sent to Costa Rica. Not knowing the background, the only possible conclusion would be that it was a military coup d’état. However, now that we all have had ample time to study the background, it is equally clear that the Supreme Court of Honduras had the legal authority to arrest the president; that they had due cause to arrest the president; and that they could relieve the president from office during the trials.

They issued an arrest order for the president, not an expatriation order. Expatriating him was a separate crime. Two wrongs don’t make one right. Yet the world demanded that Zelaya be reinstated. From a foreign perspective it seemed like a politically correct stance, not to say the only possible stance. I cannot criticize those who took that stance, since I would have done the same in their positions.

Yet, from a Honduran perspective it was impossible, since it would have meant disaster to reinstate Zelaya. He would rapidly have attacked those that acted to arrest him. To allow him to be reinstated and wield power would have been suicidal for the republic. Thus, I cannot criticize Micheletti either. Both sides did what they had to do.

Was there no possible compromise? The legally acceptable solution, to both sides, should have been to have Zelaya return to Honduras to face jail; to take up the process where it was interrupted. For him to turn himself over to the custody of the military, be brought before a judge, and the judge deciding if he should be removed from office or reinstated. In fact, this is exactly what Micheletti was proposing in the negotiations: That the Supreme Court decide on his reinstatement or not.

However, Zelaya responded by demanding that Congress take that decision, and Micheletti relented. As we know, Congress voted almost unanimously not to reinstate Zelaya.

In summary, although the process went bad when the military expatriated Zelaya, it was brought back on track with the Guaymuras agreement, where the topic of his reinstatement was decided (although it technically should have been done by the Supreme Court, one can argue that Zelaya gave up that right when he himself insisted that Congress should decide instead of the court).

Yet this resolution to the legal situation has not brought back peace and stability to Honduras. Why? It seems the largest problem is the lack of faith in the rule of law in Honduras.

It is very detrimental that other countries accuse the Supreme Court of violating the law.

For instance, the fact that the U.S. has revoked tourist visas for all members of the Supreme Court is a clear vote of lack of confidence in the highest judicial institution in Honduras. If the U.S. doesn’t trust the Supreme Court in Honduras, why would Hondurans? And if they don’t trust the Supreme Court, why would they obey the laws at all? It promotes the attitude that crime pays. And it does, in Honduras. The attitude is, I’m told, that if you don’t stuff your pockets illegally when you have a chance, you’re an idiot.

This attitude is reinforced by the policy of the U.S. and other countries.

So what to do instead?

First, the main principle in dealing with Honduras and Nicaragua must be to reinforce the faith in the rule of law, based, of course, on their domestic jurisprudence and experience, not on that of the U.S. All aspects of law enforcement and justice, including human rights, must be given top priority in institution-building support. This should be done with respect for the local conditions and experiences, to be effective.

A second point is respect for the democratic institutions, including direct diplomatic contacts that bypass the executive branch and go directly to the judicial and legislative branches. Name-calling must of course stop. It is so unprofessional for a staffer in the U.S. Senate to call Honduran Supreme Court justices and Congressmen “golpistas”.

A third point is how to deal with wannabe dictators. The OAS should intervene in the case of Nicaragua today. Once the court is stacked, the rule of law has ceased to exist. One cannot call Nicaragua a democracy any more; the coup d’état has already been sown and all that remains is to harvest it. The world should make clear that it will not accept having Ortega on the ballot, that it will lead to harsh sanctions.

The last point is to engage in the economy of these countries. Right now an environmental disaster is sailing up in Honduras. A beautiful and unique lake, Lago de Yojoa, is being destroyed by unsustainable fish farming. Within a few years the lake will die. Today it is still possible to develop eco-tourism as an alternate source of income in the community, but once the lake dies, so does that possibility. Yet the market forces inevitably drive the development towards that looming disaster. “Adult supervision” is desperately needed, but nothing can be done without risk capital willing to invest in tourism development, thus producing an opposing force to the one that is pressuring for unsustainable exploitation. For this to happen there must be stability and faith in the rule of law. See point 1.

Among those who benefit from the present policy is the military-industrial complex, who get to sell more weapons and security systems when the time comes to put out the fire in Central America, that the present policy promotes. Furthermore, those that sell systems for border security benefit, since ever more Central Americans are destined to migrate illegally to the U.S. Those who hire illegals in the U.S. will also benefit, because the supply of cheap labor will continue. Also the drug cartels in Mexico will benefit, since they can exploit the migrants and force them to work like mules, smuggling cocaine to the U.S. (and if they refuse, they are shot).

As you see, much is at stake also for the U.S. of A. It is time to wisen up.

Footnote: Former US ambassador to Honduras, Charles A Ford, wrote an analysis in June this year in which he – in my opinion – correctly and succinctly described the situation. Read it!

Mob Violence in Nicaragua is a Coup d’État

A violent street mob in Nicaragua is trying to prevent the democratically elected Congress from convening in order to declare an action by the president illegal. The police is not stopping the mob violence.

This is the first step towards a coup d’état. The international community must take steps now to stop the erosion of democracy. The Organization of American States, OAS, has tools at its disposal for intervening. Failure to intervene now would be disastrous for the credibility of OAS; the little that is left after it assisted Honduras’s president Manuel Zelaya in his coup plans last year.

If the mob is not stopped, and the Congress is not able to carry out their duty, then the only tool left to prevent a coup d’état by the president is to use coup d’état-like methods against the president. As I have argued here that is defensible, but it will lead to the international community turning against the democratic institutions, instead defending the wannabe coupster Ortega.

As those who have followed the development in Honduras closely know, that is just what happened there last year. A mob headed by the president stole ballots that were in the custody of the court, which was trying to prevent a coup d’état. The international community should have taken forceful action against Zelaya at that point, but they failed. That was, as the kids say, the “epic fail” of the conflict.

My call to the international community is to take forceful action against Daniel Ortega’s government now:

-Regard this event as a full-blown attempt at a creeping coup d’état, because if you don’t, you will face another Epic Fail in Central America!

Zelaya to become political leader of PetroCaribe

Venezuela’s president and former military coupster Hugo Chavez has offered Honduras’ deposed president Manuel Zelaya the post as head of a newly formed political council in the PetroCaribe organization. PetroCaribe was formed to sell oil from Venezuela to poor countries in the Caribbean and Central America under very favourable credit terms.

A number of news stories talk about Zelaya becoming the head of PetroCaribe, but I have only found one in English, a Russian site, that is stating that he is to head a newly formed political council. Given how close Venezuela and Russia are, especially in PR (i.e., “Propaganda Related”; cf. e.g. how Pravda and Chavez both claimed that the U.S. had caused the earthquake on Haiti; weapons deals; presidential visits; etc), I’d keep an open mind to the possibility that it is the Russian source that is the correct one. When searching in Spanish this was seemingly confirmed by this Cuban site.

Zelaya’s role will be to “promote democracy.” We all know how well that went in his native Honduras, where he was found by the Supreme Court to be acting to overthrow the democratic constitution in place since 1981, and deposed by Congress after the court had ordered his arrest. He overstepped an article (239) that leads to immediately ceasing to be president, and he did so after the court had issued an injunction for him not to do so. Those who claim that his removal was a coup because he has the right to due process are thus misinformed; due process was followed, why it was no coup.

When PetroCaribe was formed, the critics – or conspiracy theorists if you prefer – said that it would become an instrument for putting political pressure on the members who were indebted to Chavez. The idea is not new, and now it seems that they are openly laying their cards on the table by creating this political council, intended to get involved in what is happening in the member states politically.

It has been expoused how the west uses that strategy with the world bank system (e.g., in “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man“): Put a country in debt, and then demand that they follow your will, or else. Those leaders who are so obstinate that they don’t give in not matter what arm-twisting is employed, are eliminated. The basic idea is to lend money to Third World countries to put them on the hook, making sure they cannot pay it back, ever. Those negotiating the loans have a bonus pay, so they get more bonus the more they can inflate the loan. This is not supposed to be public information, so the employee who told me made me promise not to reveal his name. However, I can deduce that it is true from other evidence. I once was asked to put a price tag on a project in Honduras, so I asked a Swedish colleague with many years expertise in exactly that field. However, the bank was very unhappy, and wanted me to inflate the price by a factor ten or so. In other words, the strategy is as follows:

Finance a project with a loan, give favorable interest (one to a few percent), but inflate the price so much that the project will never be profitable. It is important that the profit is taken out of the Third World country by giving the job to a First World company. This way the country stays poor and indebted for ever, while the cost for the rich county is not all that high since the money just goes around and quickly comes back into the national economy.

What Chavez – perhaps in cohorts not only with Cuba but also with Russia – is doing is not to duplicate this strategy, but to create another version of it. Chavez does not have coffers full of money, but he has oil. Instead of providing money he provides oil.

It does seem, though, that his plan is not all that well thought out. He is in fact lending money, since he is not getting paid until later. And unlike the world bank projects, the money does not immediately come back as income for Venezuelan consulting and construction companies. Chavez is actually providing something of value. He is, however, taking this from his citizens, the people of Venezuela. His country is going downhill rapidly, with hyperinflation, water shortages, electricity shortages, and security problems.

In short, the PetroCaribe plan has turned out not to be sustainable. Perhaps that is why Chavez has decided to openly try to cash in on it now, before the economy completlygoes belly up.

His political plans have already stalled; it started with Honduras stopping Zelaya’s coup attempt, and continued with a right-wing president being elected in Chile. Also Argentina and Brazil may loose their left-wing regimes soon according to opinion polls. The wind in Latin America seems to have shifted against him. When his economical power base now also is failing, Chavez has little choice but to act as swiftly as possible, before his chances are gone for good.

Zelaya has already proven that his attitude is “full steam ahead, damn the torpedoes” – even when there is nothing but torpedoes ahead. The question is how far can a conflict go? If it was just Venezuela and ALBA, there would be no worry. Although Venezuela has some of the best Russian-made fighter planes, they have no pilots trained on them, and not even manuals in Spanish. How many Venezuelan pilots read Russian?

However, Russia has decided to send its fleet back to the Caribbean. And Cuba has Spanish-speaking pilots who have studied Russian. Plus, what stops Putin from having Russian pilots flying the planes? USA allegedely had American pilots fly planes painted in Israeli colors during the 1967 war (although nobody has claimed they flew combat missions). By placing top-modern Russian war equipment in Venezuela, Russia has the equipment on stage so to say, in case a conflict would get ignited. Hopefully this is defensive in nature, and not offensive, even though Chavez did threaten war against Honduras, and keeps doing so against Colombia.

This may just be a sign that a new Cold War might be sailing up off Florida. What is a country like Honduras to do in this scenario?

My best advice is to not trust either side, but to seek out a neutral road of self-reliance. Nobody is thinking about Honduras’ well-being except Hondurans. Neither Obama nor Chavez has anything good to offer Honduras (beyond trade, of course). It is time that the country stopped pandering for recognition, stuck to its laws, and started working diligently on its own long-term economical plan.

Footnote: There are also ALBA loans for buying oil from Chavez. Zelaya used them, and so does president and former dictator Ortega of Nicaragua. The purchasing president only pays a fraction of the price to Venezuela, but sells it at full price. The remainder is a long-term loan, like 25 years. It sounds very similar to the PetroCaribe loans, and I am not sure what difference – if any – there is. Zelaya tried to convince the private sector in Honduras to get on board with this, arguing that 25 years is an eternity, so they didn’t have to worry about ever paying it back. They refused, though, wisely. The cash that this deal generates for the president is used as an illegal source of political cash, and is employed for corrupting the political process. While Honduras stood up to this corruption attempt, Nicaragua is now the next target, and only time will tell if it will succeed or not.

Nicaragua på tur efter Honduras

Anhängare till Nicaraguas president, förre diktator Daniel Ortega, uppträder nu på samma sätt i Managua som anhängare till Zelaya gör i Tegucigalpa. Samma brunskjortemetoder användes i lördags mot kyrkobesökare. Bilar slogs sönder och flera personer inklusive en journalist misshandlades utan att polisen ingrep, skriver La Prensa i San Pedro Sula. Tvärtom verkade polisen stödja pöbeln. En bil med honduranska skyltar, i vilken Mel Zelaya har setts köra omkring och som kan tillhöra honom, sågs kring uppbådet.

Personerna som anfölls var på väg till en koncert i en kyrka. Den ende polis som ingrep var Isaac Real, som hjälpte Irvin Larios då denne blivit nerslagen och låg hjälplös på gatan. Då han gjorde detta skrek en annan polis, med identifikationsnummer 2074: “Gå undan, blanda dig inte i det. Låt dem jävlas med honom. Det är inte vårt problem, utan idioternas som går ut på gatorna och ber om stryk.”

Nicaraguas centrum för mänskliga rättigheter, Cenidh, håller förre diktator Ortega ansvarig för det inträffade och kräver att han “upphör med förtrycket av det civila samhället”. Fd Ortega vill ändra landets grundlag precis som Chávez och Zelaya, något som dock fick den senare avsatt och utkastad iförd endast pyjamas – inte ens tjära och fjädrar kostade honduranerna på honom.

Prästen i kyrkan beklagade att sandinisterna inte tillät yttrandefrihet, och påminde om att tillställningen var rent kulturell, med kända artister, och inte hade någonting med politik att göra. Det var en avslutningskoncert för ett nationellt möte i en organisation som jobbar för att stärka demokratin i landet, Coordinadora Civil.

Honduras drar in visum för amerikanska diplomater

Honduras av folkkongressen utsedde president Roberto Micheletti bekräftade att de har beslutat att återkalla diplomatvisa från USA-diplomater. Detta är en reaktion mot att USA har återkallat diplomatvisa från fyra honduraner, nämligen försvarsministern Adolfo Sevilla, kongressens talman Alfredo Saavedra, ombudsmannen för mänskliga rättigheter Ramón Custodio, samt Tomás Arita Valle, domare i högsta domstolen. Custodio bidrog genom sin myndighetsutövning aktivt till att offentliggöra fd president Manuel Zelayas brott mot grundlagen, och Arita skrev under hans arresteringsorder.

“Det är vår rättighet för detta är vårt land… och det är inte möjligt att någon, hur mäktiga de än är, kommer och talar om för oss vad vi skall göra eller förödmjukar oss”, underströk Micheletti.

Samtidigt rapporteras från Nicaragua allt kraftigare kritik mot Zelaya, och mot landets president Daniel Ortega som spenderar stora summor på honom. Kritiken kommer från oppositionspolitiker, näringsliv, och media, men även från Ortega närstående politiker. Zelaya har nu uppehållit sig vid gränsen mot Honduras i över en vecka, vilket lett till mångmiljonförluster i handeln. Det har uppskattats att Honduras har förlorat 4 miljoner dollar, och Nicaragua 8 miljoner.