Saturday, July 11, 2009

Honduras: waiting game is no game

It's sickening enough that there are members of Congress who openly support the coup in Honduras. But Ginger Thompson of the New York Times' Mexico bureau wants you to believe that the squawking of a little splinter group of Republican rightists represents "tiny cracks emerging in the solidarity of the coalition of countries demanding the return of the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya."

How else to intepret this passage, as she presents no other evidence for the assertion?

There were also signs of discord in the coalition of countries demanding Mr. Zelaya’s return. At a subcommittee hearing in Washington on Friday, several members of Congress criticized the Organization of American States for suspending Honduras not long after it lifted the suspension against Cuba.

Representative Connie Mack, Republican of Florida, urged the United States to cut its support for the O.A.S., which gets 60 percent of its financing from Washington. He said the organization’s response to the crisis in Honduras proved it was a “dangerous organization,” because it had sided with President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, a stern ally of the ousted Honduran president, in undermining democracy in the region.

"What has happened in Honduras was not a military coup,” Mr. Mack said. “If anyone is guilty here it is Mr. Zelaya himself for having turned his back on his people and his own Constitution." [my emphasis]

The only way this would represent disunity among the countries pushing for Zelaya's return to office is if Miami were a separate country. Which, well... never mind.

The article as a whole is actually better than the run of recent big-media accounts of the coup and its aftermath. It reports the strikes and roadblocks by the popular movement supporting Zelaya's return to office, and reports the actual results of the CID-Gallup poll in Honduras showing a plurality of opposition to the coup (as compared with Reuters and Juan Forero of the Washington Post, who simply repeated the results as reported by La Prensa. Wild that "journalists" would take their cue from a coup-supporting paper that photoshopped the blood from the now-iconic photo of Isis Murillo (taken by Eduardo Verdugo for AP), shot dead by the military at the airport while waiting for Zelaya's attempted return.

Murillo's father, an anti-logging activist, spoke to the press recently recounting [Spanish] the shootings at the airport last Sunday and holding responsible Billy Joya, a retired Battalion 316 commander who's evaded every effort to bring him to justice for tortures and murders in the 1980s and who was named a ministerial advisor by the coup government. Yesterday Sr. Murillo was taken away by men in plain clothes. He is at serious risk.

Murillo's is one of the many lives at stake if the U.S. government does simply fold its hands and wait for magical results from the Costa Rica "negotiations". It may be that this administration, which is clearly eager to demonstrate that it opposes Zelaya, the Honduran popular movement, and Hugo Chavez, is backing away from its support for Zelaya's restoration. But Miami Republicans spreading pro-coup nonsense in a House hearing is not evidence for that. (For an interesting account of the hearing, see Adrienne Pine's anthropological field notes.)

Update: 12:30 pm, 13 July - All you'll hear about in the U.S. media is that the coup government lifted the curfew, but the repression is actually ratcheting up: Two leaders in the popular movement were assassinated [Spanish] over the weekend, and seven TeleSUR reporters and crew are in the process of being expelled [Sp.]. What will it take to get the U.S. government to cut off the rest of the aid and exert the many other forms of pressure it can bring to bear on the coup-makers?

The victims: Roger Ivan Bados, a labor leader and activist in the Democratic Unification party, killed on Saturday evening by three shots fired by a man on a bicycle near his house in San Pedro Sula. Ramon Garcia, from the province of Santa Barbara in easternwestern Honduras, was forced under off a bus by soldiers and shot; his sister and his nephew's wife were also wounded in the incident. [Updated to correct 11:45am 14 July.]

[Image: Anti-coup demonstration at U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa July 2; Eduardo Verdugo, AP]

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At 9:42 PM, July 11, 2009, Blogger expatyank said...

Please read the whole "HONDURAN" constitution pay particular attention to Article #239. Was it a coup or was it a group of soldiers acting on the orders of the supreme court with the nearly the whole congress in agreement? Some constitutional students say Zelaya had removed himself from office..

At 3:47 AM, July 12, 2009, Blogger Nell said...

Simple answers to simple questions: It was a coup.

By the "HONDURAN" military and their patrons in the "HONDURAN" business elite.

The coup has produced a remarkable number of newly minted constitutional students -- none of whom has a word of criticism for the abrupt suspension of constitutional freedoms imposed by the golpistas four days in.

Not to mention media censorship, arbitrary detentions, and shootings of unarmed demonstrators.

No one's fooled. No country in the world recognizes Micheletti's presidency.

At 2:26 PM, July 12, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

Call me cynical, but nobody is actually reading the whole Honduran constitution, especially people who tell other people to do that.

It was obviously a coup, because it fits the definition of a coup. A separate question is whether there was legal justification for the coup. I certainly haven't read the Honduran constitution, but i'm enormously skeptical. A military doesn't do something like that unless they think they are going to lose the political or legal fight, or unless they want to cause a crisis for other reasons. Otherwise, why do it? Why not proceed in a slower but more legitimate manner?

At 4:17 PM, July 12, 2009, Blogger Darlene said...

I am really confused by this whole thing. If the press are to believed, Zelaya was going to change the constitution giving himself the right to remain in power indefinitely. I don't see any clean hands here on either side.

At 2:39 AM, July 13, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...


If you think you were confused before, read this: (from

JUAN GONZALEZ: Mr. President, your opponents who engineered the coup claim that you were trying to subvert the constitution of 1982. What were you trying to do with the referendum that you were holding and is it true that as they say, your were trying to illegally extend your term?

MANUAL ZELAYA:[translated] That is completely false. In Honduras we do not have reelections and I never intended to be reelected. That will be a matter for another government, another constitution and another Constituent Assembly. The Popular Consultation is a survey, just like the Gallup one does or other polling groups. It does not create rights. It has no power to impose. It is not obligatory, its an opinion poll. How could this be a motive for a coup d’etat? No one has tried to me. I was expelled by force by the military. This is an argument made up by the coup plotters. Don’t believe them.

Darlene, you said "if the press are to be believed." Well, that is often the problem. In the words of George Seldes: "If you look for the social-economic motive, you will not have to wait for history to tell you what was propaganda and what was truth." Seldes was a wise old gaffer by the time he retired, and i think he lived 100 years. If you aren't familiar with him, check him out.

And read the alternative press too.

At 1:40 PM, July 13, 2009, Blogger Nell said...

In my first post after the coup, I linked to a blog that demolished the lie, spread by the coup-makers and repeated by virtually every English-language media outlet, that the vote to be held on June 28 was to "extend Zelaya's term in office."

It was not. It was a non-binding opinion poll on whether to add a fourth ballot item to the November elections (for president, Congress, and municipal offices) calling for a constitutional convention.

IF a majority had expressed a favorable opinion on June 28, and IF Congress had responded by adding the constitutional convention question to the November ballot (unlikely, since the poll was nonbinding), and IF it passed in November, and IF the new Congress then convened a constitutional assembly, then a whole variety of reforms might be made; neither of the ballot questions specified them.

For instance, under the current constitution all members of Congress are elected at large, rather than from geographical districts -- giving party bosses enormous power compared with the people the members supposedly "represent", making it difficult for the needs and interests of specific regions even to be discussed in Congress, much less met, etc.

That's an issue that makes constitutional reform appealing to many Hondurans, not just Zelaya supporters, but you don't hear a word about that.

It's perfectly true that expanding or discarding term limits might be proposed in a constitutional rewrite -- how many countries in the world limit an elected executive to one term? But such a change, even in the best-case scenario, would come long after Zelaya leaves office: he's not running in November, his term will end when his successor is inaugurated in January, and the most that could be imagined is that a constitutional change in term limits might allow him to run again in the future.

So it's complete garbage that Zelaya was seeking to extend his term in office, much less become "dictator for life". The suggestion that this non-binding poll in any way justified his being forced out of his bed before dawn at gunpoint and flown out of the country is laughable. Even the military's top lawyer admits that that was a crime, although he considers it one for which there will be no punishment.

At 1:50 PM, July 13, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

Thanks Nell. That was very informative.

And whoever writes that blog you linked to has a sense of humor, because this made me laugh: "dodging bullets in the streets, which is sort of like Twittering, for poor people"

At 1:54 PM, July 13, 2009, Blogger Nell said...

The BoRev crew are unexcelled at bringing the snark.


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