Tag Archives: Zelaya

Mel Zelaya calls 70% of Hondurans “coupsters”

Sunday’s presidential election was more than a regular presidential election in Honduras. Since deposed president Manuel “Mel” Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, was running for election, it was for all intents and purposes a referendum on his deposing on June 28th, 2009. So how did it go? In a three way race, she apparently came in second. In a press conference today, Manuel Zelaya – according to reports in social media – called all those who does not agree with his party “golpistas”, ‘coupsters’. That is over 70% of the voting population of the country.

"I am the coupster" - Manuel Zelaya calls over 70% of the population coupsters, golpistas.

The rejection of Xiomara Castro de Zelaya at the polls appears to have a lot to do with the recent collapse of the Venezuelan socialist regime. As a response to a mass demonstration across the country against the illegitimate president (Maduro is Colombian) on November 9, Maduro instigated plundering of shops all over the country, a process that is still continuing (timeline video). Given that Xiomara Castro openly displayed the Cuban flag (over the Venezuelan; see photo below), and that the Venezuelans openly reject the “Cuban invasion” (see second photo below), her credibility got seriously tarnished. The claims that voting for her would not mean opening the door for Castro-communism in Honduras were just not credible for the majority of the population. Especially when that very dictatorship, with known imperial ambitions, effectively was paying her entire campaign.

Campaign rally for Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, together with her ex-president of husband. Note the Cuban flag over the Venezuelan flag, symbolizing that in her opinion Venezuela is a part of Cuba.

While the flag in the following photo was burning the crowd was chanting “¡Fuera, fuera fuera!” (literally ‘out’ but in English we would say ‘Cubans Go Home!’).

Burning of the Cuban flag in Merida, Venezuela, on Nov 9th, 2013.

¿Quien paga la campaña de Xiomara Castro de Zelaya?

Este domingo 24 habrá elecciones presidenciales en Honduras. Un candidata que puede ganar según las encuestas es la esposa de Manuel Zelaya, Xiomara Castro. Han creado un partido para los Zelaya, “Libre”. Este partido parece tener mucho dinero, mucho más recursos que los demás. ¿Pero de adonde viene?

Me informa un fuente con enlaces a PDVSA, la compañía estatal de petróleo en Venezuela, que Manuel Zelaya tiene un puesto en Petrocaribe (una organización de PDVSA para vender petróleo a países en el Caribe y America Central) que le da un porcentaje de cada barril vendido a America Central. Por cierto, en marzo del 2010 yo escribí sobre el hecho que “Mel” había sido nombrado a un puesto en Petrocaribe, pero el hecho que recibe porcentaje de estas ventas es algo nuevo para mi. Eso explica mucho. Explica hasta por qué el presidente de Panamá, Martinelli, parece flojo en la oposición a la amenaza izquierdista en las Américas. Recuerda que el presidente de facto de Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, solo es un títere de Raúl Castro de Cuba. El que realmente controla las cosas es otro, probablemente el comandante cubano Ramiro Valdés. O sea, quien realmente paga la campaña de Xiomara de Castro es la dictadura castro-comunista, usando dinero robado del pueblo de Venezuela.

Ramiro Valdés y Hugo Chávez.

Truth Report on Honduras

Harvard law professor Noah Feldman has, together with co-authors, written a report to the Honduran Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR from its Spanish name) regarding the constitutionality of the events before, during, and after June 28, 2009, when the president of the republic, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, was removed from office and flown to Costa Rica. Following this blog’s tradition of archiving a copy of all important documents related to that event, the report is duplicated here: Reporte a la Comisión de la Verdad y la Reconciliación de Honduras: Asuntos constitucionales (English version). It is with a special interest that I read this report, since I proposed a truth commission back in July 2009, and Micheletti’s negotiators brought it up in their counter-offer.

After reading the executive summary I find the report to contain exactly what I had expected. First, that a lot of people kept their silence and didn’t reveal what they knew (the fact that CVR requested a meeting with me, whose only involvement has been writing this blog after the fact, amply illustrates that they have grasped at straws for getting to the truth). They have not been able to determine if the secret arrest warrant was issued the day it was dated, or afterwards in a CYA effort. This means that the report does not add any new facts, which is a pity. As for the legal analysis it is as could be expected, given that no new facts came out. Finally, since this is a legal and not a political study, they wisely refrain from evaluating what it means in political terms – something that I don’t have to refrain from here.

They identify three risks to modern democracy, not just in Honduras but generally, all exemplified from Honduras 2009. They are first that the executive office-holder abuses power and usurps powers from the other branches of government (it is clear that they see “modern democracy” as synonymous to “presidential republics”, because this is obviously something that cannot reasonably happen in a parliamentarian democracy). The second is that of an unconstitutional transfer of power, e.g. by military intervention. The third is the lack of clarity as regards the roles that the different institutional actors should assume in a crisis, due to poorly defined constitutions and laws. The report is structured along these three lines of analysis.

Zelaya made an “autogolpe”

In the executive summary they clearly state that president Mel Zelaya violated direct court orders before being deposed, and that the Supreme Court had a constitutional and legal method of deposing him. Having said this, they seem careful not to say that the president was obligated to obey the Supreme Court. In any constitutional democracy it is self-evident that the president is obligated to obey the Supreme Court, so by not stressing that point they are in fact implying that there is something wrong with the constitution of the Republic of Honduras – i.e., that it may give the president a position equivalent to an elected king with a one term limit. This is what I mean with them sticking to the legal and refraining from opinions on the political. Put in plain English: Anyone who is defending Zelaya’s actions and claiming that he should have been restored to power is implying that Honduras is not a constitutional democracy, since if it is a constitutional democracy, then Zelaya de facto made a coup d’état, an “autogolpe”. That is the political conclusion that the legal scholars refrain from expressing, but which can be read between the lines.

When it comes to the act of Congress to depose Zelaya, they stick to their task and discuss only the constitutionality or not thereof. Their conclusion is that Congress most likely did not have that authority, although the Constitution is vague and fails to clearly indicate which institution has what authority in this situation. Therefore it becomes necessary to make a political evaluation of intent, given the basic premise that Honduras is a constitutional democratic republic. At least in the executive resumé they do not consider the fact that Congress is the highest representative of the people between elections, given that Honduras is a representative democracy. In a constitutional crisis where the executive has violated the Constitution and failed to obey the Supreme Court, and there is a lack of clarity in the Constitution and laws of how to proceed, the one and only institution that can act independently is the Congress, since they “are” the people between elections, and all power emanates from the people.

Although the authors do not make this point, they imply it in the recommendation section. An important idea with the commission was to make recommendations of how to avoid a repetition of such a crisis, by strengthening the legal framework of the country. They recommend that the Supreme Court gets a clearer role as arbitrator between the different branches of government, and a stronger position visa-vi the executive. They further suggest that Congress should get an express role in the removal of the President.

It is interesting to note this, since the interim presidency all the time claimed that it already was that way. Here is a philosophical question: Does the relative power have to be set by laws, or can it be set by precedent? In the case of USA it was set by precedent, in 1803 (see “From strengthening institutions to a coup: Explaining the ouster of President Zelaya as an outcome of a game of institutional emergence“). All that it takes for this to become precedent is that it is accepted. To first say “no we don’t accept it because the law is not explicit” and then say “we should change the law so it explicitly becomes that way” is hypocritical. As long as the law is not explicitly forbidding it, it can be established by precedent, as was the case in Honduras 2009.

What will CVR say?

Their report is due any day. They ought to include the political analysis to the legal study. In this blog post I have indicated how I think their analysis should go. But the question is if they have the balls to challenge the entire global community, who called this a coup d’état. Do they dare? Can their careers survive it? That’s the question.

Some quotes

Reading the main text of the analysis, the report appears even more in line with the thinking of the supporters of the interim presidency. Could it be that the executive summary is adopted for political reasons to agree more with the official opinion of OAS and others? If so it is a shame. A truth commission should not look over its shoulder, but be the standard-bearer for independent analysis. In my humble opinion their conclusions are precisely what I have concluded since the very first posts on this blog. But now it is official.

About Zelaya

Concluimos que la utilización del Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas para el propósito previsto en estos decretos fue ilegal bajo las leyes de Honduras.” (We conclude that the use of the National Institute of Statistics for the purpose of these decrees [holding a referendum] was illegal under the laws of Honduras.)
Adicionalmente el Acuerdo 027-2009 violaba la normativa constitucional y legal relacionada a la utilización de la Fuerzas Armadas.” (Additionally the agreement 027-2009 violated the constitutional and legal norms for the use of the armed forces.)
También concluimos que los Decretos Ejecutivos y el Acuerdo llamando a la “consulta” o “encuesta” probablemente no fueron conforme a derecho.” (We also conclude that the executive decrees and agreement calling for the referendum or poll probably were not in agreement with the law.)
Estos artículos parecerían prohibir una Asamblea Nacional Constituyente bajo el orden constitucional actual.” (These [constitutional] articles would seem to forbid a national constitutional assembly under the present constitution.)
Nosotros concluimos que el Presidente Zelaya Rosales ilegalmente incumplió con las órdenes judiciales del Juzgado Contencioso Administrativo.” (We conclude that president Zelaya Rosales illegally disobeyed the judicial orders from the contentious-administrative court.)

About Congress

Al menos algunos de los cargos contra Zelaya Rosales parecen estar bien fundamentados.” (At least some of the accusations against Zelaya Rosales appear to be well founded.) [They exemplify with abuse of authority for disobeying a court order.]
Nuestro análisis aquí concluye que el intento legislativo de destituir a Zelaya Rosales de su cargo probablemente violó la Constitución.” (Our analysis here concludes that the legislative intent to depose Zelaya Rosales probably violated the Constitution.)
Por lo tanto el nombramiento [de Roberto Micheletti Bain] siguió lo establecido en la sucesión constitucional especificad en el artículo 242.” (Therefore the appointment [of Roberto Micheletti Bain] followed the constitutional succession order established in article 242.)

About the Armed Forces

Por lo tanto, los comandantes de las Fuerzas Armadas observaron la ley cuando rehusaron a asistir con la Cuarta Urna.” (Therefore, the commanders of the armed forces were following the law when they refused to assist with holding the [referendum].)
Las Fuerzas Armadas violaron el artículo 102 de la Constitución cuando expatriaron a Zelaya Rosales.” (The armed forces violated article 102 of the constitution when they expatriated Zelaya Rosales.)
También dejamos nota que los oficiales militares fueron exonerados de su acusación penal en enero de 2010. No expresamos ninguna opinión con relación a este caso penal. Nuestro caso está limitado a la discusión de la legalidad de las acciones. La pregunta sobre si los oficiales militares son responsables criminalmente por la expatriación de Zelaya Rosales es distinta a la pregunta de si la expatriación fue legal.” (We also take note that the military officers were exonerated from their criminal accusations in January of 2010. We are not expressing any opinion in relation to this criminal case. Our task is limited to discussing the legality of the actions. The question of whether the military officers are criminally responsible for the expatriation of Zelaya Rosales is a different question from that of whether the expatriation was legal.)

My Comments

After reading the analysis of the constitutionality of the events, it appears to be the conclusion of the authors that president Zelaya Rosales was clearly acting outside the Constitution and the laws, as were the military when they expatriated him, but that the Congress was balancing near the margin of the Constitution (“probably violated”). Note again that this analysis is strictly based on the constitutional legality, and does not include neither a political analysis, nor a criminal analysis.

For a political analysis one has to evaluate the alternatives, and consider what they would likely have led to – in this case, and as a precedent. Failure to stop Manuel Zelaya Rosales would have led to the executive being above the law. He had amply demonstrated that he was not going to accept any order from anyone. There was no other tool at the disposal of Congress and the Courts than the use of force. The report finds that the Supreme Court had the legal right and due cause for having Zelaya arrested, and that the arrest order to the military was constitutional.

The point where the constitutional order was broken (after it was broken by Zelaya) was when the military expatriated him. It left the Congress and the Supreme Court with a very difficult situation to handle, in which both the president, and those charged with arresting the president, were acting unconstitutionally. It was a fundamentally political crisis, not legal, at that point. Consider the alternative to allow Zelaya back as president. He would surely not have agreed to return without having all his adversaries arrested first. The legal case against him would have been dead. The expatriation of him put the entire establishment before a fait accomplis: the military had figuratively burned the ships. From their perspective this was desirable, since they had openly defied him, refused to obey his orders. They knew that if he remained president their careers would be over. They had a personal interest in making sure that there was no chance for Zelaya to survive the crisis in office.

Personally I would not be surprised if they got tacit support from different individuals, within and even outside the country. It is no secret that Zelaya is allied with one of the greatest threats to peace in the Western Hemisphere: Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías. It is furthermore no secret that Chávez Frías has conspired to overthrow a number of democracies using the same unconstitutional method as Zelaya Rosales attempted in Honduras (starting with Venezuela in 1999). In none of the other cases has the democratic checks and balances managed to defend the constitutional order. Although one would have preferred that Honduras’s military officers had stuck to the legal route of actions, one must therefore have a certain sympathy for their reasoning that “attack is the best defense”. There is no guarantee that the law would have prevailed if they had followed it.

Whatever one thinks about the military’s actions they did not assume power, and the actions of Congress are defensible under the circumstances as a precedent for a case not contemplated under the Constitution. That is the bottom line that emerges from a political analysis of this legal report, and that makes it perfectly clear that the deposal of Zelaya Rosales was not a coup d’état. (While the authors of this report have not been able to determine if the secret arrest orders were issued the days they are dated, or created when they were made public in order to cover up a military coup, I am assuming that they were for real, for 3 reasons: First, because they had legal backing and it would be illogical to use extra-legal methods when one has legal methods at ones disposal. Second and third, because I have it from two different sources, who don’t know each other, that they knew about the secret arrest order already June 25 or 26; both are family members of people involved in the events. Of course they could be lying, but what sense would that make when they had the law on their side? Therefore I consider it far fetched to believe that it was a military coup that they were trying to cover up.)

Summing up

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report is published, the last chapter of the events of June 28, 2009, will be written. That marks the end of the political events, the final step in the implementation of the Guaymuras-dialogue agreement, the San José-Tegucigalpa Accord. It has been implemented meticulously by first interim president Micheletti, then president Lobo, even though ex-president Zelaya backed away from it when he realized that Congress would not vote him back as president.

What remains is to learn from this event. Honduras has already amended its constitution as regards popular referendum, but as this report points out in its recommendation section, also the new wording is insufficiently clear. The recommendations in this report should be taken very seriously by the Congress in Tegucigalpa, both those regarding crisis solution, regarding the removal of a high office-holder especially the president, those regarding changing the constitution, and those regarding popular referendum. All of those parts were involved in the crisis of 2009, and all of them are important to protect the democracy against the kind of attacks launched by Hugo Chávez and his Cuban allies; their goal is to take over all countries in Latin America, installing Quisling regimes that are beholden to “Socialism of the 21st Century” (i.e., communism).

The strategy of Castro and Chávez is to win democratic elections with the financial backing of the Venezuelan state (oil revenues), and then once in office call for a national constitutional assembly to rewrite the constitution, creating a structure that will enable their Quisling to stay in power indefinitely. Only when the power is secured will they complete the transformation to communism, as they appear to follow Trotsky’s strategy of spreading their power first before consolidating communism. (In fact, in 2007 Chávez himself confessed to being a Trotskyist!)

Honduras was the first major set-back in their plan. The attacks continue unabated, and the war is not yet won. Millions of dollars are still being spent to try to bribe their way in. It is a dangerous and volatile situation, and the more the world punished Honduras economically after the alleged “coup”, the more they pushed Honduras into Castro’s and Chávez’s fold. The wise thing to do now, when this legal report is out, is to acknowledge that Manuel Zelaya Rosales was in clear violation of the Constitution, that he had to be arrested and removed from office to preserve constitutional democracy, and that while a clear error of judgment was made in expatriating him it, it does not change the equation: Zelaya could not be left in office. We have to separate the two issues, the expatriation and the removal from office. We can condemn one while applauding the other. It was, frankly, stupid to expatriate Zelaya Rosales, but the action of Congress can be defended as attempting to find a way out of an impossible situation not contemplated by the Constitution, setting a precedent that can well be codified in a constitutional amendment now, following the recommendations of this report.

Published 13:37 June 9, last updated 07:59 June 10.

Wikileaked cable reveals USA ignorant

The USAmerican ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, wrote a cable on June 19, 9 days before the president of the country, Manuel Zelaya, was arrested by the military on orders of the Supreme Court, reports Le Monde. There had been rumors of a military coup, but on that morning he had breakfast with the head of the military General Romeo Vazquez Velasquez, and the head of the army, General Miguel Garcia Padgett, who both assured him that the military would not depose the president to install a junta. They said it was just a rumor circulated behind closed doors to put pressure on the politicians. The ambassador also reported that they would not act without the knowledge of the US, and concluded that the military “do not have the least intention to attack the legitimate government” (reverse translated from French).

When the president was arrested by the military at dawn on June 28, Llorens – one might guess from his cable communication – did not know that the Supreme Court had issued an arrest warrant for the president. Based on this previous communication, one may therefore suspect that the ambassador felt betrayed, thinking that they had done a coup d’État nine days after promising that they would not do it, not knowing or understanding that in spite of it appearing to be a coup, it was not a coup.

However, there is a problem with this interpretation: A persistent rumor that Llorens knew about the arrest order in advance. From the cables it appears he did not.

There is one way in which these different facts can be reconciled. The generals did not, in Llorens’s words as translated by Le Monde, say that they necessarily would inform him personally. Just his country. There is a US air base in Honduras, and Marines train there. Given the close contacts it is beyond likely that at least some of them would have known. Thus, the generals did not lie to the ambassador.

Furthermore, the military of Honduras never attacked “the legitimate government”, the legitimate government being the Congress and the Supreme Court. Furthermore, they did not “attack” the president, they arrested him on orders of the Supreme Court (and then they set him free abroad rather than hold him). So the generals kept their word quite literally on that point, too.

What should be of concern, though, is the ambassador’s words that Zelaya is not an ideologue, thinking that USA can manipulate him. That is either ignorant, or misleading. Zelaya was bought by South American interests, most likely Hugo Chávez, already in his election campaign. This bribery continued with the so-called ALBA “loans”, in a process that in most every country would have made the president guilty of high treason. Furthermore, he said explicitly that he obeyed Chávez second only to God (“Después de Dios, ¡Chávez!”). If Llorens was ignorant about this, it is not good. If he is protecting Zelaya (or someone else), it is even less good.

Having seen now what Chávez did once his democratic cover was blown, introducing a full-blown dictatorship by similar methods as Hitler once did, I don’t think anybody can argue that the defense of democracy in Honduras was too rash, too determined. It was appropriate. Unfortunately Venezuela is in a different position, the judiciary already having been completely compromised, and the legislative as well, so a repeat is not possible. The best hope for Venezuela is a popular uprising and that the security forces remain passive while the people throw out the dictator quite literally.

Honduras’ president Lobo licks dictator’s boot

President Pepe Lobo is figuratively licking the boot of his country’s main enemies, and not just in words, but by trying to execute a self-coup, an autogolpe, by overstepping the separation of powers in the most perverse way. He is trying to illegally replace the Supreme Court.

The president of Honduras, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa, was elected in November 2009, after the previous elected president Manuel Zelaya had been deposed on June 28 for ignoring a binding verdict from the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ). Powerful friends of Zelaya, who have an extraordinary influence over the global public opinion, made sure that his legal deposal got labeled a military coup in the minds of all who didn’t look under the surface. As a result Honduras interim president Micheletti was not recognized by any country. President Lobo has been recognized by perhaps a 100 countries by now, but not by a number of countries in Latin America, and they block the readmission to OAS. It is to achieve that readmission that Lobo now is taking actions that cannot be described as anything but boot-licking.

The countries that don’t recognize Honduras are the ALBA countries, the allies of Chavez’ Venezuela, and Castro’s Cuba. The friend of Zelaya that I mentioned is non other than Hugo Chavez. He used his ministry of propaganda, which has an international satellite TV channel at its disposal in the form of TeleSUR, to create the global image of the event. They stage events and have “news actors” in the form of paid demonstrators who create scenes for the cameras, while at the same time other staffers, pretending to be demonstrators as well, use force to keep the other media from covering what they are doing. They go as far as firing firearms, and whether by accident or on purpose it seems that it was they who killed the 19-year old outside Tegucigalpa’s airport on July 5th, 2009. Their version of events is spread by many blogs that appear to represent grassroots in many countries, but which in reality most likely are all coordinated if not controlled from Havana, Cuba.

Against this media super-power Honduras has not much more than a handful of bloggers.

Maybe you think I wrote Cuba by mistake instead of Venezuela above. No, it was no mistake. You see, Hugo Chavez turns out to be surrounded by only Cubans, led by non other than Comandante Ramiro Valdez, who fought with Castro in the Cuban Revolution. With Chavez admiring Fidel Castro, he is effectively just a capataz, a farm foreman, for Castro. It is a fitting description also because Cuba is poor and Venezuela is the “farm” that feeds Cuba. Not at least with oil.

Castro is also using his capataz Chavez to buy other countries in Latin America, by including them in the ALBA group (the “Bolivarian Revolution” alliance): Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and some minor islands. Honduras joined under Zelaya but left again under Micheletti.

When Lobo took office his very first act was to allow Zelaya to leave the country, in spite of there being pending court cases against him for very severe corruption. The ALBA countries refuse to recognize Lobo as president if he doesn’t remove those charges against Zelaya. Having constitutional separation of powers, neither the president nor the national Congress (CN) can interfere with the judiciary; nevertheless, they are trying as hard as they can. The word now is that they will vote in CN to fire the attorney general and all the justices of the CSJ – even though that, too, would appear to be unconstitutional.

In essence, Lobo is licking the boot of his country’s enemies by trying to please those dictators while violating the oath he took to obey the Constitution. The word treason comes to mind.

What will this lead to? Assume that they take the vote and it passes. The decision could of course be challenged in court, by those that are supposedly fired. At that point Lobo, who acts as the capataz of Honduras for Castro, could say that the CSJ is attacking the CN, even though it is the other way around. Who wins in the court of public opinion is a question of who has the most effective propaganda at his disposal. But who wins on the ground in Honduras is a question of whose orders the military chose to obey; the president’s, or those of the Supreme Court? Assuming that the president disobeys the court. But if he does, then he may be deposed legally the same way that Zelaya was.

What Castro, Chavez, Zelaya, and Lobo are counting on is that if it fails the first time it will succeed the second.

Honduras must braze itself. The attack directed from Havana, Cuba, aimed at introducing maffia-style narco-communism all over the Americas continues. Honduras has won one battle but the war rages on. So what to do?

Attack is the best defense, they say. Instead of waiting for the wolf to attack again, seek him out and fight him where he lives. In other words, cooperate with the democratic opposition in the countries from where the wolf is attacking. Cuba is where the brain is, but what matters most is the money. Venezuela is the source of the money.

Chavez’ has just made himself dictator by a Hitler-style coup. The vast majority are hostile to the Cuban model, yet that is what is being implemented by Chavez. The repression of the opposition has started, but most dissidents are still not jailed. However, with the new censorship laws it is just a matter of time until free speech has been so suppressed that Cuban-style conditions take over, and effective opposition becomes impossible. The optimal time for a revolution against Chavez’ dictatorship is just now.

Such an anti-Communist revolution in Venezuela would benefit all countries that are being threatened by the narco-communist plans that are being financed with the oil income that is being stolen from the people of Venezuela. This is why Hondurans would be wise to go online and help their brothers and sisters in Venezuela to spread the truth about their country internationally. It is essential as a balance to the regime propaganda. It would also give the judiciary in Honduras, and the military, and the opposition parliamentarians, fortitude in resisting the pressure from the dictator’s boot on their necks.

US reaction to Honduran Crisis 2009

The wikileaked daily security briefing from the US Department of State, June 29, 2009, the morning after Honduras’ president Manuel Zelaya had been deposed, reveals that DoS did not label it a coup d’état. On the contrary, the text starts (in paragraph 13) with stating that “Honduran military forces arrested President Manuel Zelaya June 28 according to orders issued by the National Congress and the Supreme Court of Honduras.

Thus, with access to information from the ground in Honduras, USA DoS did not label it a coup. The text continues: “Zelaya was taken to a local air force base and flown to Costa Rica. Emergency Action Committee (EAC) Tegucigalpa subsequently met to discuss the ramifications of the seizure of the president by host-cost country military forces. The RSO noted the general climate in the capital was calm … Later in the day, Congress officially named Roberto Micheletti interim president”. The remainder relates only to the safety of US personnel on the ground.

From this security briefing, classified as SECRET//NOFORN (secret, no foreigners), two things are apparent: First, that the US Department of State did not regard the event as a coup; and second, that there is no indication of US involvement.

In combination with the cable sent by Ambassador Llorens July 23, this cable seems to confirm the suspicions in Honduras that the Department of State and the Embassy were not on the same page. While the DoS clearly seems to regard the change of president as legal, the ambassador clearly did not.

A detailed account of the events of June 28 have recently become available in a 622-page Spanish book by Honduran journalist Armando Cerrato (see Honduras Weekly). Among other things, he details how Zelaya was dressed, and what happened at his arrest, citing eye-witness accounts from the president’s own neighbors.

The very pajamas that Mel Zelaya was NOT wearing when he was flown to Costa Rica.
The very pajamas that Mel Zelaya was NOT wearing when he was flown to Costa Rica.

It turns out that a lot of the “facts” that has stirred the public opinion outside Honduras has been fabrications and propaganda lies. From the pajamas story to the concentration camps, insanely hysterical lies have been spread by Zelaya and his associates. Many of whom are criminals, according to another leaked cable, from the former ambassador – who warned of the power-grab that Zelaya was attempting.

The Truth Commission is still active in Honduras, so these leaked cables may be taken into account in their work to find out what happened. It is getting time to close this chapter. There are lots of facts that are not in dispute.

Nobody disputes that Zelaya was trying to hold a constituting constitutional assembly, nor that such an assembly is unconstitutional in Honduras. The difference is what weight one puts on the fact that it is unconstitutional. Zelaya’s supporters don’t care one bit that it is unconstitutional. His detractors do; they want rule of law.

Nobody disputes that the Supreme Court of Justice had ordered Zelaya to stop his plans. The difference is just that Zelaya’s supporters don’t care what the court says. His detractors do; they want rule of law.

Nobody disputes that Zelaya openly mocked the Supreme Court of Justice, the Election Tribunal, and the National Congress. The difference is just that Zelaya’s supporters don’t care. His detractors do; they want rule of law.

Nobody disputes that it was illegal for the military to send Zelaya in exile, but while Zelaya’s supporters regard that as proof of it being a military coup, his detractors don’t. They agree that it was illegal, but given that Zelaya would be deposed as president anyway by completely legal means, they see it as a justifiable crime to prevent the loss of life (the militaries have already been charged for it, and the court dismissed the charges for exactly that reason).

There is only one thing that speaks for it being a coup, and that is the way in which the president physically was removed from office. Everything else speaks for it being a constitutional succession in defense of an attempted coup by the president himself. So ask yourself, what matters more for justice: appearance, or substance?

USA warned Zelaya dangerous for democracy a year before he tried to overthrow the constitution

In a cable written by former US ambassador to Honduras, Charles Ford, to his successor Hugo Llorens, on May 15, 2008, Ford warns Llorens about Honduras’ president Manuel Zelaya in no uncertain terms.

The cable represents a staunch warning of an imminent threat to democracy in a country that traditionally had been a close ally to the USA.

Ford’s account reflects getting to know the Honduran president during two and a half years of sometimes rather close contacts. It led Ford to conclude that Zelaya is “almost a caricature of a land-owner ‘caudillo’ in terms of his leadership style and tone,” a ‘caudillo’ being akin to a dictator.

The ambassador’s description of the president is blunt: “Zelaya’s principal goal in office is to enrich himself and his family while leaving a public legacy as a martyr who tried to do good but was thwarted at every turn by powerful, unnamed interests” (the emphasis is mine). He hammers home this assessment by immediately adding that Zelaya ”would be quite comfortable as a martyr who tried but failed honorably in his attempt to seek out social justice for the poor.”

Ford finishes the summary of the cable by warning of the anti-democratic tendencies: ”[Zelaya] resents the very existence of the Congress, the Attorney General and Supreme Court. Over his two and a half years in office, he has become increasingly surrounded by those involved in organized crime activities” (again, my emphasis).

The cable ends on a rather pessimistic note: “I believe we can engage Zelaya intensely in the hope of so as to minimizing damage to Honduran democracy and the economy.”

With the benefit of hindsight, Charles Ford’s warning appears to have been prophetic. Manuel Zelaya tried to hold a referendum in 2009, aimed at establishing a “constituting constitutional assembly.” Since it would have implied to overthrow the constitution of Honduras, it was declared illegal and ordered stopped by the Supreme Court (see video account of events, and an analysis I made in April 2010).

As Zelaya ignored the court and persisted with the plans for a referendum on June 28, 2009, he was arrested by the military at dawn, on an arrest order from the Supreme Court. However, due to the military illegally exiling him the act was deemed a coup d’état by other countries, in spite of the Congress in Honduras voting by a large majority to replace Zelaya by the person who was next in the succession line, Roberto Micheletti. This decision was later upheld by Congress, again by a very large vote margin. After Zelaya’s deposal the attorney general filed charges for a number of large corruption scandals, also involving a person mentioned by Ford in this cable.

Today Zelaya is living in exile in the Dominican Republic, refusing to return to his home country to face corruption charges. Just as Ford predicted in the leaked cable, Zelaya has become a martyr for the poor and those who consider his deposal a coup d’état.

It is noteworthy that the cable that Hugo Llorens sent home July 24, 2009, after Zelaya’s deposal, ignores completely what happened before June 28. The only reference to it is by saying that there was “near unanimity among the institutions of the state and the political class that Zelaya had abused his powers in violation of the Constitution” while at the same time saying that the violation was “not proven”.

This is disingenuous, since Zelaya had violated a direct court order, failing to take the required act within the deadline given (i.e., submit a report indicating obedience of a ruling, by June 25). The prosecutor thus had due cause to ask the court for an arrest warrant for the president, and the Supreme Court had the legal authority to issue that arrest warrant, as they did on June 26. Yet none of this is even mentioned by Hugo Llorens.

In combination, these two cables from Tegucigalpa released so far by Wikileaks, raise questions regarding the role of ambassador Llorens in Zelaya’s attempt to overthrow the constitution of the Republic of Honduras. The fact that Llorens and Zelaya knew each other from previous dealings in the 1990’s has been brought up before. This is something that the US Congress can look into, and I predict they will, once the Republicans take over the House next year. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, from Miami, has made herself known as a strong supporter of the defenders of democracy in Honduras, and she will take over the chairmanship of the foreign affairs committee. So I expect action, and that the truth will win in the end.

Zelaya: Socialism or Martyrdom

USA considered Zelaya dangerous for democracy long before he tried overthrowing the constitution.

A secret cable has today been released by El Pais in Spain, written by former U.S. ambassador to Honduras Charles Ford, on May 15, 2008. It was written to inform his successor Hugo Llorens about the situation. The words and descriptions are so strong, so striking, so revealing of the background to the deposal (what some call a military coup) of Zelaya on June 28th, 2009, that I will just encourage you to read it for yourself. This text is on fire!




E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/14/2018




1. (S) Summary: Honduran President Jose Manuel “Mel” Zelaya Rosales is a throwback to an earlier Central American era, almost a caricature of a land-owner “caudillo” in terms of his leadership style and tone. Ever the rebellious teenager, Zelaya’s principal goal in office is to enrich himself and his family while leaving a public legacy as a martyr who tried to do good but was thwarted at every turn by powerful, unnamed interests. Various public statements over his tenure suggest he would be quite comfortable as a martyr who tried but failed honorably in his attempt to seek out social justice for the poor. He is comfortable working with the Armed Forces and until recently with the Catholic Church, yet resents the very existence of the Congress, the Attorney General and Supreme Court. Over his two and a half years in office, he has become increasingly surrounded by those involved in organized crime activities. End Summary.

2. (S) I have gotten to know Mel Zelaya quite well over my tenure as Ambassador, and offer these personal reflections on his character, his views of the United States, and on what his presidency means for our interest in the region with the objective of informing future policy choices.

3. (S) Personally, I have found Zelaya to be gracious and charming, quite willing to tell me whatever he thinks I want to hear at that moment. For example, in the period June-August 2007, we must have met weekly, with his agenda focused on explaining his nomination of Jorge Arturo Reina (who lost his U.S. visa for past terrorist connections) as the UN Ambassador, his presence in Managua at Sandinista celebrations and his intentions with regard to Hugo Chavez. It was interesting to see how his explanations differed from meeting to meeting, almost as if he had no recollection of our exchange just a few days before.

4. (S) In the period May-June 2006, Zelaya pressed me hard to obtain President Bush’s approval of his plan to join PetroCaribe. When he met in early June with President Bush who confirmed our strong opposition to his intention, Zelaya later told me that he was surprised that this item had been on our agenda. In short, over an almost three year period it has become crystal clear to me that Zelaya’s views change by the day or in some cases by the hour, depending on his mood and who he has seen last.

5.(S) Not surprisingly, Zelaya has no real friends outside of his family, as he ridicules publicly those closest to him. In the days preceding his inauguration, Zelaya without prior notification canceled a country team briefing for his new cabinet. Over a private lunch he explained that he trusted no one in his government and asked me the question: “Who is the most powerful; the person with a knife behind the door or the person outside the door who knows there is someone behind the door with a knife?” It is clear to me that tactically he will work with almost anyone, but strategically he stands alone.

6. (S) Zelaya also has been quite erratic in his behavior. Despite his often harsh public rhetoric, such as describing U.S. immigration policy against illegal aliens as “persecution” by “fascists”, Zelaya would meet again with President Bush in a heartbeat. At one point he even planned to go uninvited to a bilateral Bush-Berger meeting in Guatemala. Zelaya not only allowed the first visit of a U.S. warship to mainland Honduras in 22 years, but he delivered a ringing speech extolling bilateral relations on the ship’s deck, only briefly expressing pride in Honduras’ capture and execution of the American interventionist William Walker. Always suspicious of American intentions, he inexplicably submitted to a psychological profile at my Residence – twice. His erratic behavior appears most evident when he deliberately stirs street action in protest against his own government policy – only to resolve the issue (teacher complaints, transportation grievances, etc) at the last moment. This approach to problem solving seems to be Zelaya’s way of gaining acceptance, challenging the established political power structure, and moving his agenda – which is not populist or ideological, but is based on popular appeal.

7. (S) Zelaya remains very much a rebellious teenager, anxious to show his lack of respect for authority figures. Cardinal Andres Rodriguez has told me that not only did he not graduate from university but he actually did not graduate from high school. The Cardinal should know, as he was one of his teachers. The problem is that Mel has acted in this juvenile, rebellious manner his entire life and succeeded in reaching the highest office in the land. No need to change now. He will continue to lead a chaotic, highly disorganized private life.

8. (S) There also exists a sinister Zelaya, surrounded by a few close advisors with ties to both Venezuela and Cuba and organized crime. Zelaya’s desperate defense of former telecommunications chief Marcelo Chimirri (widely believed to be a murderer, rapist and thief) suggests that Chimirri holds much over Zelaya himself. Zelaya almost assuredly takes strong medication for a severe back problem and perhaps other drugs as well. His vehement attacks on the press have reportedly endangered journalists opposed to Zelaya’s policies. His style and tone in order to get his way is one of intimidation and bullying, threatening tax inspections and worse rather than substantive debate on issues. Zelaya’s inability to name a Vice Minister for Security lends credibility to those who suggest that narco traffickers have pressured him to name one of their own to this position. Due to his close association with persons believed to be involved with international organized crime, the motivation behind many of his policy decisions can certainly be questioned. I am unable to brief Zelaya on sensitive law enforcement and counter-narcotics actions due my concern that this would put the lives of U.S. officials in jeopardy.

9. (S) Finally, Mel is very much a son of Olancho, aware of his roots in the land and his family’s ties to Honduras since the 1500’s. Unlike most other Honduran leaders in recent times, Zelaya’s view of a trip to the “big city” means Tegucigalpa and not Miami or New Orleans. While he and his family have been part of the Honduran landscape for 400 years, they have not until recently inter-married with the Honduras elite in Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula. His son’s marriage in 2006 to one of the country’s leading Honduran-Arab families was very important to Zelaya yet a complex event, signifying acceptance into the very elite group that he so very much resents.

10. (S) I have found Zelaya’s real views of the United States hidden not too very deeply below the surface. In a word, he is not a friend. His views are shaped not by ideology or personal ambitions but by an old-fashioned nationalism where he holds the United States accountable for Honduras’ current state of poverty and dependency. Zelaya’s public position against the Contra War and against the establishment of Joint Task Force Bravo at Soto Cano Air Force Base are manifestations of this underlying viewpoint.

11. (S) Other behavior by the President confirms, in my view, the depth of his feeling. While Zelaya was open to our point of view of the selection of key members of his Cabinet, he was absolutely closed to listening to us on his appointment of his Ambassador to the OAS and to his appointment of Jorge Arturo Reina as Ambassador to the UN. The Honduran voting record in the UN in terms of coincidence with US positions is at the lowest point in decades.

12. (S) More revealing, at public events with key officials present, Zelaya will make clear that anyone interested in becoming President of the country needs first to get the blessing of the American Ambassador. Personally, in private conversations at the Residence, Zelaya has recounted to me, multiple times how a previous American Ambassador had ordered the President of the Honduran Congress to accept the Presidential candidacy of Ricardo Maduro, even though in Zelaya’s view Maduro was Panamanian-born and thus ineligible. Other sources have documented Zelaya’s views on this point where his anger and resentment are more apparent than in his exchanges with me. It is clear by the way he recounts the story that on one level he resents very much this perceived dependency yet accepts it exists and looks to me to define for him the rules of the game. He becomes frustrated at times when he believes I am not carrying out this responsibility.

13. (S) Most noticeable to me has been his avoidance of public meetings with visiting US officials. Whether Cabinet officials or CODELs, Zelaya always is a gracious host, but never comes out of the meeting to have his picture taken publicly with our visitors, as he is so anxious to do with other visitors from Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela. Almost all of our meetings take place at my Residence rather than at the more public setting of the Presidential Palace. He made no attempt to disseminate his may photo ops with President Bush after the June 2006 meeting in Washington. The fact is that the President of the country prefers to meet quite often in the privacy of my Residence but not to be seen in public with American visitors.

14. (S) Finally, Zelaya recently is fond of saying that we need to improve our communication, which I interpret to mean that we need to agree with him more often. A similar fate has befallen Cardinal Rodriguez who used to meet, as I do, regularly with the President. As the Cardinal in recent months has found himself in disagreement with Zelaya and is not participating publicly in his projects, Zelaya is working increasingly with pastors in the evangelical community. The Cardinal recently told me that he and the President hardly speak now as the President is unhappy that he doesn’t agree with the direction Zelaya is taking the country. For Zelaya, communicating means agreeing unquestionably with his point of view.

15. (S) GOING FORWARD: The last year and a half of the Zelaya Administration will be, in my view, extraordinarily difficult for our bilateral relationship. His pursuit of immunity from the numerous activities of organized crime carried out in his Administration will cause him to threaten the rule of law and institutional stability. Honduran institutions and friendly governments will need to be prepared to act privately and in public to help move Honduras forward.

16. (S) We will need, in my view, to continue to engage Zelaya whenever we can in order to minimize damage and to protect our core interests. As a rebellious teenager, he will need a significant space to move, in but we must be very direct in our conversations with him as to our core interests. Despite his feelings towards us, he does respect the role the U.S. Embassy is still perceived to play in Honduran society and will expect us in private to be direct and clear in our views. Using an analogy from American football, we will need to continue to carry out an aggressive bend but not break defensive game plan in the run up to the next elections in November 2009. In this way, I believe we can engage Zelaya intensely in the hope of so as to minimizing damage to Honduran democracy and the economy.

My observation: After having read this, nothing of what happened in 2009 should be any surprise. Ford predicted it in significant detail more than a year in advance, even down to Zelaya’s willingness to fail trying to help the poor, and to be prepared to become a martyr. Exactly what he is now in the Dominican Republic, not interested in coming home, as president Lobo is finding out when trying to assist him. He is just where he wants to be, a martyr, a symbol, content with having become infamous while almost destroying his country. It should give pause to those who have supported him. But will it?

A Honduran Synthesis

Looking at Honduras from a long distance, in space and also more and more in time since last year’s political crisis, this is what I see: A democratic country that is de facto controlled by an oligarchy, through deep-running corruption and state control that goes way beyond what most western democracies would be comfortable with. By price fixing and splitting up the business in segments, so that each of the main Families gets some solid source of income, status quo is preserved. The result is a rich elite, but a poor country.

The anthithesis of this, the opposite extreme, is communism, such as the so-called Socialism of the XXI’st Century, that Venezuela and Cuba are doing their best to spread in Latin America. The methods include buying presidential candidates or presidents, such as Zelaya in Honduras, who then set in motion a process to change the country’s constitution. The new constitution calls for democratic socialism with a large degree of populism. In essence, populism is the opposite of institutionality. The effect of this change, if implemented fully, is a formally democratic dictatorship, where the ruler has at his disposal a herd of election cattle. Since this isn’t the first time in history that this strategy has been used, several countries have articles in their constitutions designed to make it impossible. Honduras is one of those countries.

What happened in Honduras June 28, 2009, was the end of an attempt to overrun the constitution and introduce the antithetical form of government, by a person who himself belongs to the oligarchy: Manuel Zelaya. It was an attempt at replacing one corrupt system with another corrupt system (in fact, even more corrupt according to many sources). Instead of an elite ostensibly ruling for the upper class, it would be part of the same elite ostensibly ruling for the working class. But of this came naught, since all the institutions of government objected to it in unison, and stopped it.

During the months that followed, there was a widespread hope that finally corruption would be dealt with, that the rule of law would be established, and that liberal democracy had triumphed in Honduras. Even the color of this movement reflected that; instead of blue or red, this was the white movement, using the color of peace. Rather than dominated by the elite or the working class, this was a movement of the middle class, a newly politically awakened middle class.

A year after the election of a new president – Porfirio Lobo from the nationalist party – it seems that his ideal is very close to the old thesis: Keep the rich in power. He allows the extreme left to express their opinions, partly because they have the international spotlight on them still, partly because their message is so foreign to most Hondurans that they do not constitute a serious opposition. However, he has repeatedly expressed discontent with criticism from the middle class, and even gone as far as to silence critics by threatening to withdraw their citizenship. It seems that the middle class is where he sees the real threat coming from – and he would be right.

It is only the educated middle class that can bring about a real liberal democracy under the rule of law in Honduras. However, as yet there is no obvious leader for the movement (and, I might add, it may not be good for a person’s health to be that leader, in a country where even congressmen are chased down and murdered in broad daylight).

Still, we can already see that there is a political void, a space that a savvy politician could take and make into his or her platform for the next presidential election. To position himself, or herself, is key. To be seen as the synthesis, as appealing to the majority in the middle, while not alienating any reasonable person on either side. There are ample campaign themes available for the one who wants to run for the middle, but which one(s) to pick will depend on the candidate’s background.

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.