December 2, 2009

Honduran Congress vote on Zelaya today

Poll from last night: What possibility do you see
that the congress will restore Mel Zelaya tomorrow?
None: 92%
Some: 8%

Today is another historic milestone for Honduras. The congress will meet today in an extraordinary session to decide whether or not Manuel Zelaya will be restored to the presidency. If you have been following the Honduran crisis, you know that the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the Solicitor General, and the Human Rights Commission have all issued reports to congress saying that Zelaya should not be reinstated.

Oddly, even Zelaya, in an interview with Jorge Ramos yesterday, stated that the congress has no legal authority to reinstate him. Even more oddly, Zelaya said that he would not accept restoration from the congress. Univision is not available on my cable system, but I saw the beginning of the interview in a clip on local news. Zelaya nervously waved off the cameraman, telling him to keep his distance, joking that there might be a bomb in the camera. If the interview happens to be on YouTube, I would appreciate it if someone would leave a link to it in the comments.

In a CNN (Español) interview, Arturo Valenzuela, Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere of the US State Department, clearly stated that Mel Zelaya must be restored to office in yet another turn around of the US position. Less clear was his press conference in English. If you'll remember, the US State Department representatives have previously stated that they will respect a Honduran decision.

US representatives are all in lockstep now saying that the elections were a first step, "but not enough" and that the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord must be implemented. As I have lamented in frustration before, how specifically would it be possible to implement an agreement when Zelaya has declared it dead and refuses to cooperate in any way?

My thought is that it would set a dangerous and undemocratic precedent if the congress were to vote to overrule the Supreme Court. Additionally, if congress should vote to reverse their decision of June 28, it will only be because of external pressures on the Honduran government − another dangerous precedent. Any move to give Zelaya amnesty or a pardon also sets a dangerous precedent in a country already beset with corruption.

In interviews before the session, some congressmen stated they would vote the same way they did on June 28, some said they would vote to "reverse the coup d'etat", and some said they would vote to uphold the law and the constitution, which doesn't really say anything, since different people have different views as to what is legal and constitutional. Apparently, 35 Nacionalista congressmen signed a pact to ratify their vote of June 28; 20 Nacionalistas did not sign it. The Liberal congressmen were notably missing in the hour leading up to the session.

The session is starting now. I'll report more as it happens, so please check back for updates.

Update 1:30 p.m.: Diputado Gonzalo Rivera (La Ceiba) is reading the various long reports into the record. He is reading very fast and in a monotone, very hard to follow!

Update 1:45: I decided to move the blow-by-blow updates to a new article because this one is kind of long already. Please check here for updates on the congressional session: Honduras congressional session to decide Zelaya's fate.
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