The irresponsible actions of the international community has set back the agenda of Human Rights by decades, and significantly increased the risk for military coups with all the classical connotations: murders of opponents, disappearances, and violations of people’s fundamental rights, to destroy an opposition that is perceived as a threat to the liberal democracy. The place where this was done was Honduras, and the time was the last 12 months.
The organization Union Civica Democratica, UCD, in Honduras is now getting active again after a time of relative obscurity. UCD was created just about a year ago, to protest the intent of self-coup that Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was carrying out. They organized mass demonstrations with participants wearing white shirts. They are thus the essence of the White side in Honduras’s recent politics, with the rebels supporting the efforts to overthrow the constitution being the Red side.
Why do the Whites get active again now? There is one obvious reason: to help build a better society, and one less obvious: to keep defending the constitution against a threat that – remarkably – is still there.
For those of you who mostly follow leftist media this may require a bit of explanation, since the story you have been fed is that there was a “military coup” in Honduras June 28, 2009, at which Roberto Micheletti was made president; and that this was followed by illegitimate elections on November 29, at which Porfirio Lobo was elected president to take office on January 27 this year. This is the story promoted by a group of communist-aligned countries in Latin America, but it has gained international traction since no country has challenged it officially. Except Honduras, of course.
These friends of Castro, Chavez, Correa, Ortega, and Morales – all having gained or perpetuated their rule through unconstitutional means – are further alleging that the Lobo administration is not legitimate, since he was elected during a “military coup regime”, and therefore the Organization for American States (OAS, or OEA in Spanish) is refusing to let Honduras back in. They claim that the alleged military regime perpetrated widespread violations of Human Rights, allegations that are very much over the top, apparently counting on that the world media will think “no smoke without fire” – and they have. Even though they have only swallowed a minute fraction of the allegations, it has been enough to give their readers the image of a brutal military dictatorship. Nothing could be further from the truth, however.
The crimes of then-president Zelaya were dealt with extensively in court, and he was convicted repeatedly before a warrant for his arrest was issued. His violations of the constitution were grave enough to constitute high treason. The Supreme Court had every right to order the military to arrest him, as they did. Roberto Micheletti was next in the succession line to replace him, as he did.
On June 28, 2009, Honduras averted a coup that was being carried out by Zelaya, and saved its constitution by replacing him with Micheletti. The continued democratic Republic of Honduras did not change – it was the world around it that changed by condemning Honduras in the United Nations, and cutting off diplomatic relations to it. This gave encouragement to the communist rebels, who until Zelaya started using their rhetoric in his demagoguery in 2008, and adopted their agenda of overthrowing the constitution, had been an insignificant fringe group. They also got multi-million dollar funding from abroad, and many were pressured to get active in the rebel movement (for instance, Cuba used the threat of withholding education scholarships to pressure Honduran students on the island to become organizers of anti-government rebel activities).
While the rebels carried out widespread sabotage, causing multi-million dollar damage and even murdering people with bus bombs, the government stuck to the principles of human rights. Let it be said that Honduras has a less then perfect record, pretty abysmal actually, when it comes to the performance of the police and the justice system. Of course there were bad things done – you cannot change a poorly operating system overnight! These errors were reported oversees as evidence of repression, while in reality the interim government continued the work of trying to improve the standards of the police (and military, since they in Honduras are used to help the police, as stipulated in the constitution).
As far as I can judge, the Micheletti administration did their best to respect Human Rights and the norms of democracy.
They did this against a rather strong undercurrent in Honduras that believes that this method does not work; that the only thing that works is the methods of the early 1980’s: disappearances, terror, eliminations, dismantling of the rebel side by slowly and gradually picking off people in a seemingly random fashion until nobody is left who dares to pick up the stick.
Now think about it. When a constitutional regime is accused of being a military coup-facade, then what message does it send? When the international community (including the shameless Human Rights-organizations, with only one exception) accuse the government who tries to fight this culture of perpetrating it, then what message does it send?
What message does it send to be ungrateful to efforts to safeguard human rights? It sends the message that there is no point in trying to play by the rules of democracy and human rights.
Those who adhere to the old-school ideas of the hard-line approach have now got a much better argument. They can say, “we tried to follow their soft method, and look what it accomplished? Nothing!”
But I am getting ahead of myself now. I first have to update you on the situation in Honduras. President Lobo is so eager to get the recognition from the “international community”, which really means the OAS, which in turn means that he needs the support of a handful of communist-affiliated countries in Latin America, that he is prepared to sell out his country’s sovereignty for a plate of lentil soup. And not just that, pressure is being put on the democratic institutions of Honduras to violate their constitutional duties to accommodate the whims of those communist-affiliated countries.
Today the Supreme Court has been convened, says UCD, to try to reinstate justices who were dismissed for violating the laws, and to discuss dropping the legal cases against Zelaya. They try to do this today because some regular justices who are against these acts are unavailable, so their substitutes can rule differently. It is done under intense international pressure – including, I have heard, by the United States. Moreover, Lobo is talking about holding the same constituting constitutional assembly for which Zelaya was prosecuted.
In other words, the threat to democracy, the constitution, and the rule of law, appears to persist. Different actors have learned different lessons from the past year.
Chavez and his ALBA group of countries have drawn the conclusion that their communist strategy cannot be stopped.
The majority of Hondurans have drawn the conclusion that Chavez-style coups will not be tolerated in their country.
This, unfortunately, leads us right into the arms of a new confrontation. But this time, the right-wingers may have learned also a second lesson: the international community does not care if they follow the human rights rules or not; if they carry out a military coup or do a constitutional succession – the end result will be the same.
The danger of this precedent is thus that there will be a new attempt at overthrowing the form of government in Honduras, and that next time there will be no holding back of the violence in stopping that coup attempt. The risk is that the next time it will be a bloody military operation, as in a classic military coup, and that tens if not hundreds of activists will be murdered in it.
It would be a sad day indeed if that was to happen. That is why I implore the international community to stand up for the democratic republic of Honduras, to support its democratic institutions as they strive to uphold the law, and to not stand idly by when it is being attacked again. The time to engage in diplomacy is NOW. Don’t let it get out of hands a second time!