October 31, 2009

Highlights of the Honduras Accord



The following are my notes from the Guaymuras Accord, now being called the Tegucigalpa/San José Accord. I've simplified and just included the main requirements, rather than trying to translate it word for word. Just imagine a lot of "to achieve reconciliation" and "to strengthen democracy" and that sort of statement throughout. My personal comments are in brackets [ ].


A copy of the signed Guaymuras Accord in Spanish is here. Each section includes any applicable articles of the constitution, so if you are interested in that, just refer to the original document for the references.


1. Government of Unity and National Reconciliation

This refers to the Secretaries, Sub-secretaries, and heads of other state departments [such as Hondutel and La ENEE]. [This would be similar to the president's cabinet in the US.] It specifically states that these people should be from diverse parties and should be known for their honesty and capabilities. It also requires this new government to respect the 2009 budget approved by congress in July 2009, since Mel Zelaya had never submitted a 2009 budget.

[I hope that they consider leaving some of the same people in key positions (some of whom were appointed by Zelaya) because what a mess the government will be with new people stepping in for only three months − especially if the new appointees decide to find jobs for all their relatives and friends, as has been the custom. What also is not clear to me is exactly who will be doing the appointing.]

2. Renunciation of Constitutional Assembly

This requires abstention from convoking, directly or indirectly, a constitutional assembly, as well as prohibition of promoting or supporting any public poll with the object of reforming the articles of the constitution "set in stone". This includes making public declarations or exercising any type of influence inconsistent with the spirit of articles 5, 239, 373, and 374, and the special law that regulates Referendum and Plebiscite. [Certain Resistance members have already said that they are not giving up on the Constitutional Assembly.]

3. Elections and Transfer of Government

Makes a call to the Honduran public to participate pacifically in the elections and avoid every type of manifestation that opposes elections or promotes insurrection or illegal acts. Also discusses the TSE authority and the transfer of power on January 27, 2009. [Some Resistance members are continuing to say that they will boycott elections.]

4. Armed Forces and National Police

As already required by the constitution, control of the Armed Forces was transferred to the Election Tribunal (TSE) until election results are announced [expected to be November 30]. The military are responsible for the custody, transportation, and vigilance of election materials, as well as election security. The National Police are also reminded to strictly follow the special legislation [I assume this means laws related to elections].

5. Executive Power

Both sides have decided that the National Congress, as an expression of popular sovereignty, in consultation with the Supreme Court and in conformation with the law, resolve the issue of the return of the Executive Power to his status previous to June 28, until January 27, 2010. [Note that there is no timetable or deadline for this action. The congress is in recess right now, but could call a special session next week.]

The decision adopted by the Congress should be based on reaching social peace, political tranquility, and democratic government that the society demands and the country needs. [This could be the catch in which the international community could refuse to accept the Congress' decision or refuse to recognize elections − ALBA members and other countries have already said as much in the October 30 OAS meeting. That would, of course, highlight their hypocrisy.]

6. Verification and Truth Commissions

Verification Commission will monitor the strict compliance with the Accord. The commission will be coordinated by OAS, and consists of two members of the international community and two Honduran members (one selected by each side). [It has been announced that the two international members will be Colin Powell (former US Secretary of State) and Ricardo Lagos (former president and member of the Socialist Party of Chile). How can the OAS be so obvious that they appoint a socialist to this commission?! This could result in a 3 to 1 bias against the true Honduran majority.]

It is recommended that the next government establish the Truth Commission in the first 6 months of 2010. [Why the delay?!]

7. Normalization of Relations

By promising to comply faithfully with this Accord, it is respectfully asked that the immediate revocation of measures and sanctions that affect Honduras and its participation in the international community.

We call on the international community to reactivate cooperative projects as soon as possible and to continue with negotiations of future projects.

8. Final Dispositions

Any difference in interpretation or application of the Accord will be submitted to the Verification Commission to be determined in accordance with the Constitution and laws of Honduras.

Taking into account that this Accord is the product of Hondurans, we vehemently ask that the international community respect the sovereignty of Honduras and observe the UN Charter principal of no intervention in internal matters of other states.

9. Compliance calendar

The Accord goes into effect immediately on the date of signing.

Oct. 30, 2009:
1. Signing of Accord
2. Submission of the Accord to Congress regarding point 5.

Nov. 2, 2009: Formation of the Verification Commission

No later than Nov. 5, 2009: Formation and installation of the Unity and Reconciliation Government.

Jan. 27, 2010: Celebration of the transfer of government.

First 6 months of 2010: Formation of the Truth Commission

10. Final Declaration

A promise in good faith to comply with the terms of the Accord.

11. Appreciation

[Not worth summarizing. The people being thanked have already congratulated themselves and each other ad nauseam.]

12. Effective date

The agreement is effective the date signed. The formal signing ceremony will be on Monday, November 2 [in which I assume that Roberto Micheletti and Manuel Zelaya will sign the agreement].


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Note that there are no amnesty provisions, as were in the original San José Accord. Amnesty for political crimes was removed at the request of Mel Zelaya. Additionally, Vilma Morales explained in a press conference that there can be no amnesty for corruption cases based on Honduras signing an Inter-American Anti-Corruption agreement about four years ago.

We hear a lot about the "Resistance", but what we hear nothing about in the international media is the other "Resistance" − The civil society groups and average citizens who don't burn tires, who don't paint graffiti, and who don't want Mel Zelaya back to further divide and promote hate. These people also want change in their government, but what they want is that their constitution is upheld and their laws are enforced. They want corruptos punished under the law. This group makes up about 80% of the population and it is so unfair that the remaining 15-20% who make all 'noise' are the only ones listened to by the international community and the international media.

October 30, 2009

The Guaymuras Accord

Here is a copy of the signed Guaymuras Accord (in Spanish).


I'm listening to another press conference. If I heard correctly (pounding headache, fever, and earaches), the Honduran congress is in recess until after the November 29 elections.

Update 7:33 p.m.: Now I'm listening to Radio Globo and a congressman is saying they will try to call a session on Monday.

Here is how you can help Honduras



Okay, folks, all of you who want to help Honduras. Here is your chance:

Become an election observer!

The Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE) wants you!

This is something that ALL expatriates in Honduras can easily do in your area. Do you love Honduras? Do you want democratic elections in Honduras to prevail? Do you believe that the Honduran people have a right to elect their president regardless of what the international community believes? You can help with this historic event.

But let's not stop there. Do you have a club, a church group, a work group, a Rotary or Lion's club, or blogging group that might be interested in a trip to Honduras? No group is too big or too small. TSE would love to have your help and support to show the world that Honduras' elections are free, fair, and democratic.

We believe that if elections are shown to be free and fair that the international community will have to relent. You can play a historic part in saving Honduras' democracy. Imagine telling your children or grandchildren about the time that the whole world was against this little country and you helped to prove them wrong! Imagine what a blogging experience this would be! Honduras is a little country that has stood up to the world without blinking, standing firm for what they believe is right. I'm getting emotional here, but sorry, that is how I feel.

Elections are right around the corner − Sunday, November 29. The TSE has accredited various civic groups, such as the Alliance for Peace and Democracy (APD) who contacted me, to provide invitations and training to potential observers. You will need to be here in Honduras from Thursday, November 26 through Monday, November 30. Arriving Friday, November 27, might work if you could arrive early in the day.

International requirements for election observers

You will be instructed in what you can and can not do − mostly common sense things. For example, you will be allowed to talk to or ask questions of anyone, go in and out of the polling place, but obviously will not be allowed to promote a candidate or party. The training sessions will probably be held mostly in the larger cities where the observers will arrive, Tegucigalpa, San Pedro, and La Ceiba.

The TSE may suggest certain polling places to try to cover the largest number of locations, but to maintain your independence, you will be allowed to visit any polling place that you select. Obviously, if all of the observers wanted to be stationed at the beach on Roatán, that wouldn't help too much, so the TSE may ask if you are willing to cover some of the smaller towns. Observers will probably be in pairs and will be moved during the day to observe different polling places.

How to apply

In this GoogleDocs folder, (click the link) you will find:

1) An information letter from APD
2) Clearance Form for International Observers
3) Regulations for International Observers (English)
4) Regulations for International Observers (Spanish)

Read the information letter. Read the regulations. Download the Clearance Form. Using your word processing program, fill in the information on the form and save it on your computer. Send an email to AlianzaPazHonduras@gmail.com with your name and email address, any questions you might have, and attach the Clearance Form to your email. If you will be part of group, the group can send all of the Clearance Forms in one email, but be sure to include the email addresses for all.

Once your application is approved, APD will confirm your invitation and forward your information to the TSE. And then finally, you will received a formal invitation to be an election observer from the TSE (TSE website). Print the invitation and bring it with you.

If you are coming with a group, please include complete information about your group and its leader and the number of people who will be coming, even if you haven't confirmed the names. It's very important logistically that the TSE know the number of people.

Logistics

The TSE has a very small budget for election observers, since they have lost election support from the UN. Depending on the total number of volunteers, it is possible that you may be reimbursed for food and lodging during your time here, but I would ask you not to count on that.

Alliance volunteers will pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel. They have made arrangements with several hotels for special very low rates for election observers. Some volunteers are even offering guest rooms in their homes. In at least some locations, there will be small dinner parties for the observers. They will, of course, transport you to the training session and throughout election day, as well as provide transportation back to the airport. They want you to be comfortable and feel at home.

TSE is logically trying to reserve as much as possible of the budget to attract former heads of state, politicians, church or business leaders, and other influential people whose presence and subsequent reports will be more meaningful to the international community.

What we may lack in influence, I hope we can make up for in numbers. But if you feel that you fall into that 'influential' group who may be able to publicize your experience, be sure to tell the Alianza group in your email and they will see what they can do for you.

Now, this is especially for you Honduran residents and citizens: the APD is also asking for volunteers to be with the observers during their free time to show them around, go out to dinner with them, etc., so they aren't just stuck in a hotel room for days. This is a great opportunity to show off Honduras and possibly some of those same people may want to come back again to vacation some time.


I realize this is extremely short notice for an international trip, but if you can manage it, we'll be very grateful. If you live in Honduras − no excuses!

Guaymuras Accord tonight?

Honduran President Roberto Micheletti


President Roberto Micheletti made an announcement at 10 pm. He has agreed to Zelaya's demand that the National Congress decide the issue of Zelaya's restitution, but that that decision must be reviewed by the Supreme Court. He has authorized his team to sign the Guaymuras Accord tonight if Zelaya agrees to it.

He indicated that the ball is in Zelaya's court, "No more rhetoric! No more political games! No more excuses!"

We are supposed to hear more soon.

Update 11:16: They both signed the accord. Victor Rico made the announcement and is thanking Thomas Shannon.

Thomas Shannon is congratulating the negotiators and everyone else, including José Insulza and Oscar Arias. Phht. Word is that he made serious threats against Honduras to force the agreement.

Update 11:30: Vilma Morales spoke for the Micheletti team, nothing new there.
I've been waiting for a press conference from the other side, nothing yet.

Update 11:52: From my inside source, 47 congressmen will vote no (40 Liberal, 1 UD, 2 PINU, and 4 DC) 26 congressmen will vote yes (22 Liberals and 4 UD), and presidential candidate Pepe Lobo is asking the Nacionalistas to abstain.

Worst news of all: supposedly Thomas Shannon has been pressuring the congressmen to vote for the restoration of Zelay or else!
The exact words were that "Shannon scared the living hell out of everyone here including Micheletti." Yeah, remember the press conference? "We're just here to help. We aren't going to intervene. We'll respect any decision that the Hondurans make." Yeah, right. Now they are even threatening elected Honduran officials that they won't recognize elections unless they vote yes. I'm sure there must be economic threats as well.

Update 1:30 a.m.: See the comment on this article from Lce_hn. He or she saw the Zelaya press conference and wrote that, incredibly, Victor Meza said that there are still four points to be agreed upon. This Reuters Latin America report says that Zelaya will sign the agreement on Friday. (I'm not including a google translation as it is a bad translation.) Finally, I found a Proceso Digital report of Victor Meza's press conference. [google translation]

Hillary has already announced her joy at the agreement so I hope that Zelaya sticks to his word that he will sign the agreement and will respect the decision of the congress.

October 29, 2009

In the Honduran news, October 29

US State Department reps meet with Micheletti
Photos: El Heraldo


The big guns

US State Department representative Thomas Shannon and his team met with US Ambassador Hugo Llorens, Zelaya, Micheletti, and others yesterday. The State Department representatives gave no statements to the media yesterday. Right now I'm seeing the video of Llorens, Shannon, Rico, both Guaymuras teams sitting around the dialogue table.

Two Zelaya representatives indicated in harsh statements yesterday that they would not meet to "dialogue" again unless Zelaya's reinstatement was previously agreed to. Why, oh, why does the State Department keep saying that Micheletti is the stubborn one? Micheletti's team has offered ten proposals. Zelaya has only demanded over and over again to be unconditionally restored to office. He has made it very clear in interviews that he has no intention of adhering to the other terms of the Guaymuras Accord to which his team has already agreed.

After the meeting yesterday, Zelaya announced "I cannot endorse the elections." Haven't I told you that sabotaging elections has been his goal all along? He also indicated that Shannon would be pressuring for his return. Vilma Morales indicated that Micheletti's team had not been pressured, as did Jorge Rivera regarding the Supreme Court − but these people are ten times the diplomats that anyone else involved is so I wouldn't expect her to say so publicly even if it was true.

Noon press conference


Thomas Shannon and the other US representatives gave a press conference about noon. It was basically the usual diplospeak:

We are the US government and we are here to help you... We will respect any accord reached by Hondurans. We aren't going to deny that Hondurans have the right to vote, but....

Questions from reporters clarified much, though. They (the US government) aren't going to deny Hondurans the right to vote, but without an accord, it "will be difficult" to recognize elections, so Honduras will be screwed in the international community and economically. (But that isn't a threat, is it?)

Shannon brushed off the question about the political division in the US caused by the Honduras issue. He said that they staying an extra day at request of groups who want to meet with them. Which groups, I wonder? Are they doing the usual thing with the guidance of Hugo Llorens by meeting with the Resistance and Zelaya supporters (who represent at most 15% of the population), while ignoring all other opinions as coming from golpistas and therefore invalid?

As an American, the whole thing sickened me. I won't repeat what my Honduran husband was saying throughout Shannon's press conference, but the theme ran along the lines of "Who do you think you are?" and "Liar!". Throughout this crisis, I've really gotten a new appreciation for reasons of the dislike of the US government from the viewpoint of other countries. The USA is a big bully who imposes their misguided will on other, smaller countries in the name of democracy. In this case, they have tried to hide behind the OAS but the truth is out. The OAS didn't accomplish what the US wanted, so here they are to do the job themselves.

Quick dialogue today

Apparently the Guaymuras dialogue today was short and consisted of Micheletti's team presenting yet another proposal to Zelaya's team. Afterward, a very gruff Victor Meza told reporters that he hadn't read the proposal yet, but that they will discuss it if it is something "constructive." He seemed very angry and mentioned that they went to the meeting today because they were 'invited.' Somehow I think a US 'or else' statement was involved with that invitation.

Honduras vs. Brazil in the ICJ

Honduras has presented a complaint to the International Court of Justice against Brazil for violation of its diplomatic status, saying that Brazil has violated the Charter of the United Nations and the principal of nonintervention in internal matters of another country. Honduras has reserved the right to solicit indemnification for the damages and losses caused.

The heat is on Patricia Rodas

The Tribunal Superior de Cuentas (TSC) is investigating a property transaction of Patricia Rodas, the woman behind Mel Zelaya. Auditors of the National Agrarian Institute (INA) denounced that Rodas bought 113 hectares (271 acres) of public property for a total value of L. 54,179. A few months later, she sold the property for L. 3.5 million.

More corruption

The attorney general's office will be filing criminal charges against Mel Zelaya and four of his functionaries regarding the transfer of L. 30 million to FHIS. FHIS is responsible for building bridges, roads, classrooms, and other public projects to assist the poor. Shortly after the transfer, Zelaya ordered the funds transferred back to the presidential budget where it was used for Cuarta Urna publicity.

Armed Forces turned over to TSE


The Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE) received control of the Armed Forces in a big ceremony today, one month before the election, as is required by the constitution. President Roberto Micheletti said once again that no one is going to stop Honduran elections. He urged the public to be tranquil and have confidence that they will be able to safely elect the candidate of their choice.

While that transfer of control probably seems strange to North Americans, in Honduras, the Armed Forces are utilized to guarantee the custody, transportation, and vigilance of electoral materials and other aspects of security for the voting process. The Armed Forces have the logistical ability to deliver the materials to outlying areas, some of which are only accessible by sea or helicopter. Watch for this to be turned around negatively in the international media even though it is standard procedure in Honduras and based in the constitution.

US Americans speak for Honduras


A group of American businessmen in Honduras met with US officials this week in Washington, D.C., to express their support for government of Honduras. Their message was that Hondurans and American businessmen do not want Manuel Zelaya to return to the presidency, and that the position of the US government has caused economic harm to Honduran and US businesses since the beginning of the crisis.

Tourism has been hugely affected (reduced by about 80%), as well as construction, and many other industries − which of course always hits the poor the hardest. Before leaving for the US, the American team received hundreds of good wishes and was assured by many of the expatriate community that we had complete confidence that they would represent our wishes better than the US Embassy does.


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Oh, there is lots more, but I'm working on something really important right now. Please check back this evening for the next article. There is a way that any or all of you can help Honduras! Honduras needs you.


October 28, 2009

Listening to Radio Globo

Eduardo Maldonado, Radio Globo


I was listening to Radio Globo, the "opposition" radio station that used to promote insurrection and violence. Radio Globo is also responsible for spreading many of the rumors that we've suffered through in the past four months − murders and kidnappings that didn't happen, invasions that didn't happen, power outages that didn't happen, not to mention the arrival of Mel Zelaya on several different occasions.

Eduardo Maldonado also was complaining about the US heavy artillery that arrived today. "Solo falta que Barrack Obama viene!" ("Only lacking is that Barack Obama comes!" they sneered.)

They were running a text message poll asking "Do you think that that the US commission will force Zelaya's return to power?". Not many votes, but the results showed that 60% didn't believe so. Keep in mind, this is the group who wants Zelaya restored to power and their audience has been led to believe for the past four months that Micheletti is a dictator who has no plans to turn over power. But their anger isn't only directed at Micheletti.

"Who are they to come here?! No hay un pueblo mas macho que el pueblo Catracho!" (There is no people more macho than the Catracho* people.)

Someone called in to suggest a question for tomorrow: Do you think with the help of the "gringuitos" (little gringos), Zelaya will be able to continue bothering our country? That received a chuckle.

Several others called in to say that voting on November 29 is the answer for Honduras. Then there was a long string of callers, who, interestingly, parroted almost the same message: "There are not conditions now for an election. I won't vote unless there is a constitutional government. Zelaya must be restored as president." The wording sounded somewhat stilted.


The announcer reported Barack Obama's position: That Hondurans are so repressed that he will only recognize elections if Zelaya is restored to office first. That was news to me.

The announcer also read parts of the letter dated yesterday from 16 Democratic US Representatives to President Obama, demanding that Obama take strong action to restore Zelaya. (You only have to read to the third paragraph to know how extremely misinformed those US representatives are!)


How is it that US diplomacy went so wrong that they have made enemies of both sides of Honduran issue?

Butt out! Let Honduras solve its own problem.

* What the heck is a Catracho?

Hillary sends in the heavy artillery

Thomas Shannon, US State Department
Photo: La Prensa, Honduras


Today's La Prensa front page headline reads (translated) "Heavy artillery from the USA arrives today to pressure for an arrangement." The State Department heavy artillery is Thomas Shannon, Craig Kelly, and Dan Restrepo.

When asked in a press conference yesterday, the Constitutional President of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, revealed that he, as well as Zelaya, received a call from Hillary Clinton this weekend. He said they spoke for about 30 minutes. He made it clear to her that restoring Manuel Zelaya was not an option, and that Honduras is moving forward with the elections.

My source in Tegucigalpa tells me that Hillary's message to Micheletti was "Restore Zelaya or else!" Micheletti is nothing if not consistent. His response was "No".

Another bit of information that I got is that Harper's government in Canada, Martinelli in Panama, Uribe in Colombia, Arias in Costa Rica, and Insulza in the OAS are already working on a plan to observe and recognize elections no matter what, and they are annoyed with the latest USA government's actions.


Arias' change in attitude was attributed by the source to a phone call from Zelaya in which Zelaya insulted and screamed at Arias, as well as threatened him. Hah! I guess those Chávez tactics don't work as well for Zelaya.

In the press conference yesterday, President Micheletti said, "Now and going forward is the theme of elections. We are not going to arrange absolutely anything, not the dialogue, not anything if it is not subsequent to the elections. We are 33 days from elections and we cannot play with this theme."

Micheletti reiterated that "We are clear. There is no restitution (of Zelaya). We can talk about the theme of a third party (president), of a constitutional substitution, of the opening of all of the themes. They desisted with the matter of amnesty, that greatly pleased us."

Micheletti also confirmed that he asked Hillary Clinton for help to use the radar system (at Soto Cano joint US-Honduras air force base) to detect Venezuelan narco-planes in Honduran territory. He did not say what her response was. Many Hondurans fear that these abandoned planes may actually be bringing weapons for the Resistance.

As I previously reported, at least 16 Venezuelan registered planes have crashed or been abandoned in Honduras in the past weeks. Honduras has no idea how many may have successfully violated Honduran airspace by landing and taking off again because the US military forces in Honduras refuse share the radar information with Honduran anti-narcotics forces. Has that been reported in the US media?

Martha Lorena Alvarado, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, in another interview about the US visitors, sweetly said that she doesn't believe that the US will try to impose anything because the US is another country and this is a Honduran matter. She added that they may make suggestions, but not impose.

In yet another press conference, Vilma Morales, member of Micheletti's negotiation team, on the other hand, revealed that the Guaymuras Dialogue teams have been conversing by telephone this week. "We have to think with optimism that we will arrive at a happy conclusion this week."

John Biehl, OAS representative, echoed Morales in saying that an agreement is very close. He, however, has apparently been replaced with OAS representative Victor Rico, possibly because he apparently angered Zelaya by supporting the push for a third party presidential replacement. There are also rumors that Zelaya asked for a 'sweetening' of the deal.

While Resistance leader Juan Barahona and others continue to threaten sabotage and boycotting of the elections, the general attitude is that people are just tired of all this international intervention. They feel that Honduras has put forth an honest effort, it didn't work, so now they just want to move forward with elections, which they will, barring an invasion, regardless of what countries choose to recognize them or not.

Anti-USA government sentiment is growing, but thankfully, I don't believe that extends to US citizens, many of whom have shown great support for Honduras' struggle. While the US government continues to talk of "supporting the Honduran people", many believe the US is only trying to save face after making a bad decision, at the expense of the Honduran people.


Viva Honduras!

October 27, 2009

Is Chávez knocking on your door?

Emperor Hugo Chávez


For those who haven't heard the latest from Nicaragua, this brief Wall Street Journal summaries the recent Nicaraguan Supreme Court decision that, inexplicably, the constitution does not apply to President Daniel Ortega, simply because he does not want it to:
WSJ: Ortega Assists Honduras, The Chávez model hits Nicaragua: "If Honduras manages to preserve its democracy despite U.S. pressure to abandon it, the tiny Central American country may wind up thanking Nicaragua's Danny Ortega, of all people."
− read the entire article here.

Commentary Magazine discusses the US State Department weak response to the Nicaraguan issue. Nicaragua received a mild "very concerned" statement from the US State Department instead of the "vehemently condemns" statement issued by the OAS regarding Honduras on June 28, within hours of Zelaya's removal without any investigation.

The OAS is completely mum on the entire Nicaraguan issue, proving the point that many make that the OAS is a 'presidents' club' which is not at all concerned with 'institutional democracy', except as it affects presidents.
Commentary Magazine: More Mush from the State Department: Last week, the Associated Press reported that the “heavily politicized” Supreme Court of Nicaragua overturned a ban on Sandinista President Daniel Ortega’s running for re-election, in a ruling issued by Sandinista justices while opposing justices were absent (which was promptly declared “non-appealable” by Ortega). The State Department issued a press release stating it was “very concerned”....
− read the brief article here.

Now for a broader picture, Gustavo Coronel puts the pieces together. He discusses Chávez's financial and political intervention in Panamá with some 50 pro-Chávez groups, in Peru with ALBA (propaganda) houses and by financing a (failed) presidential candidate campaign, in Bolivia by financing Evo Morales political campaign, in Costa Rica with a 'Peace Base', and in Colombia by providing financial and logistical support for the terrorist group FARC.

He points out that none of these activities have received any attention from the OAS. Even more surprising to some readers will be this statement: "The attitude of the United States in connection with the Chavez’s “blitzkrieg” has been passive, even as Chavez has extended his initiatives to the U.S. academic world, Washington think tanks, Hollywood and, even, the U.S. Congress, where he is making modest but clear inroads."
Human Events: Chavez’s 'Blitzkrieg': Hugo Chavez is currently conducting a political and financial “blitzkrieg” in countries such as Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Bolivia, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Peru and Colombia. So far, country responses to his aggressive efforts have been rather languid, with the exception of Honduras, where a rapid civic and military reaction has checked the progress of his offensive.
− read the entire article
here.
Coronel concludes that "the hemisphere ignores the Chavez’s threat at its peril".

Are you getting worried yet?

Is the second poorest country in the hemisphere the only one with the
huevos to stand up to Chavismo?


Protest sign: Out with Mel, out with Chávez, out with communism

Hat tip to Pete.


October 26, 2009

Everyone 'helps' in their own way

beach, Guanaja, HondurasGuanaja beach
Photo: Bob Barbanes



Mel Zelaya, Patty Rodas, and others of his supporters have traveled the hemisphere, not only to garner support for Zelaya's restoration, but to promote sanctions against Honduras, the second poorest country in the hemisphere.

The Honduran economy is really hurting right now − more from the after effects of US economic crisis than the current political crisis, except in the areas of tourism and voluntourism, which are suffering tremendously from misinformation and the unwarranted, politically motivated US travel advisory.

Any kind of economic sanctions always end up hurting the poor the most. Tourism is a growing industry in Honduras that provides an estimated 155,000 jobs. Misconceptions about violence in Honduras has decimated the tourist industry in the past months and many workers have lost their jobs.

So, everyone "helps" to hammer Honduras in their own way, but somehow, former Minister of Tourism Ricardo Martínez just takes the cake! (photo - La Prensa)

Honduran Tourism Minister Ana Abarca and other representatives of Honduras' tourism institute were not permitted to attend the Central American Travel Market, the region's largest international tourism trade show of the year. Ricardo Martínez attended as the officially recognized representative of Honduras.

Martínez didn't tell travel reporters about tropical islands, beautiful coral reefs, Mayan ruins, colonial architecture, or exciting river rafting trips. Instead, he presented a video, set to revolutionary music, of rioters clashing with riot police in Tegucigalpa. I cannot even imagine the reaction that must have received at a travel convention.

Here is an excerpt from the TIME article, Honduras' Tourism Minister: "Don't Visit My Country!":

[Martínez] wants tourism to come back to Honduras, just not on Micheletti's watch. "I'm not saying I am encouraging travel to Honduras, because I have shown you that the situation [for tourism] does not exist," Martínez told the journalists in El Salvador. "But what I am saying is please don't forget us, because we are going to solve this crisis and once we do, we are really going to need your help."

And further damaging the tourist industry helps Zelaya in what way? Does anyone else see this as purely vindictive?

There has been no violence and very few, if any, protests in the tourist areas. The Islands of Roatán, Utila and Guanaja are as peaceful as ever. Roatán and Utila each had one march, but it was a
Peace Parade to show their support for the the government. (Please take a look at those links!) Cruise ships come to Roatán every week, which they would not do if there was any sign of unrest.

Copán Ruinas, La Ceiba, Trujillo, and Tela are all tourist areas where you would have a hard time finding any signs of a political crisis. Not only are the tourist areas safe, but many hotels throughout Honduras are offering two-for-one specials where you can receive two nights stay for the price of one. Other hotels are offering discounts.

Honduras Tips is a good online site to find out more about the different areas and to get basic tourist information. A new Moon travel guide for Honduras was recently published − for details, click on the book cover in the "Recommended at Amazon" section in my sidebar. If anyone would like to leave a link to a great hotel, please feel free to do so in the comments section.

Interview with Daniel Duquenal of Venezuela News and Views

Photo: Venezuelan News and Views


Daniel Duquenal has been writing the popular blog Venezuela News and Views since 2003. His award-winning blog began as private letters to friends overseas. Daniel wrote as an introduction, "Unknowingly, I have written the diary of Venezuela slow descent into authoritarianism, the slow erosion of our liberties, the takeover of the country by a military caste, the surrendering of our soul to our inner demons."

He lives in the Venezuelan countryside and thus has more a "ground zero" view of what Chávez has meant for Venezuela outside of the Caracas circles and the international scene where we are more used to hearing from Chávez.

Many believe that Hugo Chávez was behind the moves that eventually resulted in the ouster of Honduran President Mel Zelaya. I thought it might be interesting to readers to hear from someone who has lived through the changes in Venezuela. Daniel has graciously agreed to this interview:


Do you see similarities between the current situation in Honduras as compared to what has happened in Venezuela or Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua?

Yes and now. It is important to observe that what happened in Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela was also based on a deep social crisis whereas Nicaragua and Honduras seem to have been more directly affected by the wish of a small clique to gain power for the long term using Chavez methods and the Venezuelan people money. When necessary, all of them like to paint the social crisis, inherent to every country of the region to a certain extent, as worse than what it really is. Thus "in the name of the people" all sorts of anti-democratic abuses can be perpetrated.

After 10 years of Chávez, has "21st Century Socialism" lived up to its promises?

Difficult question because it would require first to define what the heck is 21st Century socialism. The more we look at it, the more it looks like a warmed up leftover communism that tries to pretend to be something else. In a way, just like for Cuba, whatever good might have come from the foolish adventure happened early in the regime, all the subsequent years becoming just a single matter of survival for the new political caste that emerged with the regime. In Venezuela the only positive thing that I can give to Chávez is to make certain segments of the population that felt excluded to realize that they not only have a right to come forward and ask for their share, but the duty to do so. Unfortunately since this was done in order to create a clientèle system, the side result has a been social division of country, not necessarily along wealth lines (some of the richest men in Venezuela today are very close to Chávez) but along ideological and emotional terms (fed by an extraordinary corruption). Today we have an extremely polarized society with broken friendships and families, everywhere, at all levels of society. We will pay dearly for that.

As for the material results, the numbers today speak for themselves: Venezuela has the highest inflation and according to any serious international agency, it is one of the countries of the world that will emerge the last from the current world crisis. Non oil exports now represent barely 5% of the total export value.

A lot of North Americans have a misconception of exactly what a constitutional assembly is. Can you give us a brief explanation of how that functioned in Venezuela?

A constitutional assembly, in the good sense of the term, is an assembly elected in a country after either a major national disaster or a major change in the political system. For example after a lost war followed with invasion and occupation a society tends to rebuild itself from scratch. Or when a country decides to fire its king then it needs to figure out a new political system. Chavez subscribed and made his own the idea that political problems of a country can be cured through a new constitution, when in fact what is needed is political resolve and consensus. The ploy worked because too many people in fact, even if they did not like Chavez, thought that a constitution needs to be changed on occasion even if historical precedent in Venezuela indicate that the only "successful" constitution was the one of 1958 which lasted 40 years, the longest one of all.

Just like in Honduras, the 1958 constitution had a no reelection clause, though not as strict: a president could be reelected only AFTER two full terms of his first term. That is, ten years after s/he left office. What Chavez really wanted was immediate reelection and the only way to do that was through a new constitution since the old one would have been too difficult to amend on this matter. Along the way he pushed up the term from 5 to 6 years and thus gained for himself basically 14 years rule when you include the first two years under the old system.

While most Hondurans want to have elections next month and move on, the Honduran Resistance movement has threatened to boycott elections. Election boycotts also occurred in Venezuela. Did a significant portion of the voters boycott? Did the OAS or UN cast any doubts on the Venezuelan elections as a result of the boycott?

The opposition boycotted the 2005 legislative election because it was demonstrated that the privacy of the vote was not guaranteed. Since this happened a few days before the election there was no time (nor will from the government) to address the problem and the election was boycotted. International organizations recognized the result anyway: after all Chavez had won the year before the recall election and massively the regional election. All polls said anyway that chavismo was going to retain its majority in the new assembly. The opposition error was not to boycott, there was a political cost for Chavez there. The real error was to fail in offering a strategy for after the election. That is the real reason why that assembly, elected with less than 15% of the electorate could rule at ease.

What would happen to Honduras vote? Hard to tell. The OAS is obviously a president's club and as such cannot accept that one of their members is booted like that. In other words the OAS has NO CONCERN about the judicial or the legislative powers of its country members. Looking at Venezuela and observing how the OAS allowed Chavez to take over undemocratically the Judicial and Legislative power speaks volumes. On the other hand, once a new president is sworn in and that the vote included at least 60% of the electorate, it will be very difficult to maintain the Zelaya charade. I bet you that some countries will break rank within the OAS once credible elections happen. The challenge here is for the current government to make sure the elections are as free and fair as possible and that as many people as possible do go to vote. After, it is essential that all sides unite behind whomever is elected.


Based on your knowledge of what has happened in Venezuela, if you could advise Hondurans, what advice would you give to them?

It is not for me to give any advice to anyone. I cannot approve of the way Zelaya was ousted, no matter how deserving of it he was. Now you are paying for it. However the destructive attitude of Zelaya who is not afraid to expose Honduras's people blood for his glory establishes without any doubt that he is totally unfit to be a democratic ruler of any country.

I am very amused by the parallel made by the Micheletti "regime" and the one from Chavez. As far as I can tell from here, there seems to be more freedom, more respect for human rights in Honduras today than in Venezuela!!!!!

Maybe the method you chose to resist the Chavez take over of Honduras was not the right one, but most reasonable folks will agree that leaving Zelaya in office was extremely risky. For Chavez it is very cheap to buy an election in Honduras. After all, it would be no more than what he spends each time he campaigns in Zulia state. The anti Zelaya camp could never raise the funds to match what Chavez would give Zelaya for any referendum. Zelaya was not going to play fair and it is up to the Micheletti et al. camp to convince people of that. It is tough but that is the way it is. I truly wish you the best, that you avoid the moral misery that Venezuela has become.



Many thanks go to Daniel. Please visit his blog Venezuelan News and Views. This link will take you to his articles about Honduras.

October 25, 2009

Day 120 of the Honduras crisis, October 25, 2009

John Biehl, OAS representative
Photo: La Prensa, Honduras


Day 120 of the Honduran crisis, day 35 of Mel Zelaya's misguided hijacking of the Brazilian Embassy, 35 days before the presidential election, 94 days before the newly elected president takes office, and day 125 of my blogging about it.


Again on Friday, Micheletti's negotiating team announced the proposal that Roberto Micheletti would resign in favor of a government of reconciliation, if Zelaya would renounce his campaign to return to power for the remaining three months of his term.

As many have been suggesting, a third party as president would be a way to take "personalities" and "egos" out of the equation and allow Honduras to move forward. After all, at this point, we are talking about 94 days of a presidential term, with the country and many of its people suffering economically in the meantime.

Zelaya announced that it would be unseemly, indecent for the Honduran people if he were to negotiate the position for which he was elected − though he was not exactly the democratically elected president, since he admitted that he won the elections through fraud in a televised interview which is on YouTube (in Spanish).

Friday evening, Vilma Morales of the Micheletti team said that they have submitted ten proposals to Zelaya's team and each have been rejected. She lamented the rupture of the dialogue and indicated that Zelay's commission had demonstrated intransigence and intolerance in the dialogue table.

In a press conference before he left for Washington, D.C., John Biehl, OAS "observer" to the talks, said that there is no reason that the talks not continue. However, if there is no accord reached, the OAS will not recognize elections. [google translation]

Biehl stated that any accord reached by the Hondurans would be respected by the OAS − I have no idea how that correlates with the numerous statements made by Secretary General Insulza and other OAS member states that ONLY the restoration of Zelaya will be accepted.

Biehl, pointing to a survey which will be released later, said that the majority of Hondurans are in favor of a third party replacement as a way out of the crisis. He also may have been the first OAS representative to publicly rebuke those who call for violence, saying that "is not the way." Possibly his three weeks in Honduras have given him a better picture of where the risk of violence is coming from.

Biehl qualified the previous proposals as "extremely reasonable" and referred to the current break in talks as a "recess". A blogger inside the Brazilian Embassy described Biehl as "visibly upset" after leaving a meeting with Zelaya at the Embassy Friday night.

In a Carter Center press conference, representatives made it clear that "it would be difficult to observe elections" unless an agreement is reached.

The Brazilian blogger inside the Embassy today writes that Zelaya received a positive signal from the US last night − which is likely to mean that the US will announce non-recognition of the elections or more drastic economic sanctions. The blogger also says that Hugo Llorens, US Ambassador, promised last week that the US "would have a goal after 49 minutes", referring to the world cup game. Today, on Sunday, the blogger revealed the reason for Zelaya's pleasure − he received a call from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Nothing makes Zelaya or Patty Rodas happier than some new sanction against their beloved homeland. [google translation]

Last week, the Washington, D.C., Honduran Consul was threatened with "removal by the US Secret Service" by Patty Rodas, former Foreign Minister of Honduras. The consul and employees were later removed by force by unnamed persons and the locks were changed on the office. This is the only location in the US that can provide Honduran passport services. [translated Proceso Digital article]

Consulate services to Hondurans in the US and other countries have already been decimated with the removal of several Ambassadors and Consuls who chose loyalty to Honduras and Honduran citizens over signing a loyalty agreement to Zelaya personally, putting into risk the ability to vote of expatriate Honduran citizens in a free and fair election in November.

The European Union has announced that it will not support Honduran elections.

UD party Diputada Silvia Ayala asked French Senators to not send election observers to Honduras.

Thursday's announced "massive" protests by the Resistance resulted in an estimated 100 and 150 protesters at two marches.

Although there is much howling about repression of civil rights, the Honduran government is just enforcing the same kind of common sense controls that the USA and most first world countries use in order to protect the rights and safety of all citizens. According to the US Embassy:
"the law requires that the Policia Preventiva or the local municipal authorities be notified in writing of any public gathering or demonstration at least 24 hours in advance. This written notice must include the reason for the public gathering or demonstration, start and end times, place and route that will be taken."
Does that sound like repression or violation of civil rights to you? This has cut down on traffic disruptions and violence and most citizens are grateful.


Today in a telephone interview with Radio Globo, Zelaya was confident that he will be reinstated, though he declined to give details. He announced that the dialogue was concluded, not suspended. He confirmed that the world will not recognize elections and that Honduras is without an ambassador or consul in the world. [google translation]

I'll be waiting for an announcement from the US State Department or OAS tomorrow. It's not looking good.

October 22, 2009

Press releases from the Honduran Minister of Foreign Relations

Carlos López, Honduran Foreign Minister
Photo: La Tribuna, Honduras


The Honduran Minister of Foreign Relations, Carlos López issued two press releases which I think give a better picture of what has been happening in Honduras − unfortunately, they haven't gotten much attention, even though they were issued in both English and Spanish.

October 21 press release from the Minister of Foreign Relations informing the national and international communities of the Guaymuras dialogues (in English). You can download the document from that link. If that doesn't work for you, try Eurolatina blog.

A second October 21 press release from the Minister of Foreign Relations regarding aggression and interference in internal affairs of Honduras by Venezuela and Nicaragua.

This document concludes very strongly with:
The Government of the Republic of Honduras strongly protests and condemns both the aggressive and interventionist statements of the Presidents of Venezuela and Nicaragua, as well as the many acts of aggression in which they have participated, in violation of the United Nations Charter and the purposes and principles of international law. In the same manner that Governments acted with a speedy and unusual condemnation against Honduras in respect of an act within the framework of its Internal law, the Government of Honduras expects the same speed and energy to condemn the acts of intervention and aggression by Chávez and Ortega.

The Government of the Republic demands in the most firm and emphatic way, that the UN and the OAS adopt appropriate measures and actions to curb international unlawful acts coming from the Governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua and reserves the right to exercise relevant international legal action.

Both of these documents are in English. Please read them for a better understanding of the Honduran government's position.

If you are so inclined, please consider writing to your government representatives to ask their opinion on these statements.


No progress and more deadlines in Honduras

Micheletti's delegation press conference
Photo: El Heraldo, Honduras


President Roberto Micheletti's delegates flatly rejected the midnight ultimatum imposed by ex-president Mel Zelaya tonight. They announced that after waiting for more than 48 hours for a Zelaya response to their last proposal, which was a compromise in which both the Supreme Court and the National Congress issue decisions about the return of Zelaya and that the negotiators will decide based on those reports.

The Zelaya response received this afternoon was the same as last week: Zelaya wants the national congress to decide his fate. Vilma Morales declared that a step backward.

When Zelaya's representative Victor Meza announced the ultimatum, he said that if a response was not received by midnight, the talks would be concluded. He urged the government to accept the "call" to restore Zelaya to power made by the OAS on Wednesday.

In a television interview, Micheletti delegate Arturo Corrales pointed out that José Insulza of the OAS, said yesterday that both the court or the congress decision would be valid − but then went on to say that the San José Accord must be honored and that Manuel Zelaya must be returned to office. Corrales said that returns us back to where we were on July 7. Both branches of government have previously rejected the return of Zelaya.

So, is it a Honduran negotiation or not? What is the point of all the torturous negotiation if the OAS is going to insist on the San José Accord?


Update: Zelaya's team has rejected the 10:00 meeting tomorrow and said that the midnight deadline stands. Victor Meza declared the talks will be dead at midnight if no new proposal is received.



Lots going on in Honduras

Unofficial word from the presidential palace is that Mel Zelaya's team has received Micheletti's proposal and asked to delay the meeting of the dialogue teams until 5 p.m. today. Possibly there will be some concrete news this evening.

Yesterday was a busy Honduran news day. It's a day late for various reasons, but most will probably still be news to those who don't read the Honduran newspapers. I'll hit some of the highlights:


Micheletti's team to Zelaya's team

Through a communicado, the Micheletti team asked the Zelaya team to maintain their commitment to look for a solution to the political crisis. "The negotiating team of President Roberto Micheletti continues waiting patiently for the counter proposal of the representatives of ex-president Manuel Zelaya in the Guaymuras Dialogue," the document mentions.

"Nevertheless, we haven't received any communication in nearly 48 hours. We hope that like us, our colleagues in these talks will continue committed to the process." They made a call to "return to the negotiation table, so that together we can continue to work out the steps face to face and not through secret negotiations behind the scenes."

Loud music and animal noises

While loud music all hours of the night and animal noises are generally thought of as a way of life for most of us in Honduras, José Insulza "denounces and strongly condemns" Mel Zelaya being subject to them. Here is his overblown press release. After all, we are talking about noise, not toxic gases, bombs, or bullets! He gave no condemnation of terrorist acts by the resistance (reported below).

In his address to the OAS meeting, Insulza said that neither party has mentioned abandoning the negotiations − which is flat out false, as Victor Meza, Patty Rodas, and Mel Zelaya have threatened almost daily that the talks are dead, and in fact, have abandoned the negotiating table for more than 48 hours
and have asked the OAS to issue a ruling, not to mention Zelaya's incessant issuing of deadlines which show a lack of good faith.

Tired of being pushed around

In turn, Honduran President Roberto Micheletti asked Insulza to exercise better judgment and prudence. Micheletti lamented the inopportune comments by Insulza and reminded him to keep his promise not to intervene in this internal matter. [google translation]

Carlos López, Minister of Foreign Relations, revealed that a letter was sent to the Secretary General of the UN asking that the UN cease discriminatory measures against the Republic of Honduras. He also informed him that the government considers the demand of the UN for the restoration of Zelaya to power is "contrary to domestic law and international law". [google translation of news article]

The official communication is quite shocking in the charges that it makes, including, among others, that it is the member states of the UN who are violating the Vienna convention, not Honduras. The official statement is available in
Spanish and English at the Secretary of Foreign Relations site.

Please read it and consider sending it to your government representatives to ask them for comment. These charges cannot continue to go unaddressed!

The government of Honduras announced that it will protest to Venezuela about the frequent airspace violation by Venezuelan registered planes supposedly loaded with drugs or possibly arms or even armed guerrillas. The UN and OAS will also be notified about "the acts that constitute aggression and disrespect for our country". (More on this shortly.)

US not interested in the war on drugs

The government will also present a complaint of the lack of cooperation from the United States of America with the local anti-drug authorities. According to the Minister of the Presidency, the US is refusing to share radar data with Honduran authorities at the joint US-Honduran air base or to notify officials when Honduran airspace has been violated. [google translation]

Sixteen drug (or arms) laden airplanes have flown into Honduran airspace without permission the past few weeks and crashed or been abandoned. It is not known how many more have landed and taken off again without incident at clandestine airstrips. Without the cooperation of the US base, more drugs will flow to the US, or even worse, armed guerrillas could be invading Honduran territory.

Grenades at the mall

Someone found two grenades in a restroom at the big mall in Tegucipalpa about 3 pm yesterday. The mall was evacuated. The bomb squad was unable to deactivate them, so they had to conduct a controlled explosion. I believe this is called terrorism in other countries. [google translation]

Earlier this week, in another act of terrorism, after a large electrical tower was downed, investigators found that bolts had been methodically removed from the tower base. The downing of the tower is estimated to have caused L. 8 million in damage, business loss, and resulted in loss of electrical power for a large area.

The Resistance has claimed responsibility for both incidents and threatens that attacks will continue until Zelaya is restored to office. Hat tip to Eduardo.

More US visa cancellations

In interesting timing, since the US State Department claims on almost a daily basis to be supporting the dialogues and a Honduran solution, the US reportedly cancelled another 26 visas. Two of them include the Minister of Industry and Commerce and the Minister of Information and Media. The latter was surprised as his last US visa expired 6 or 7 years ago, so he has no visa to cancel.

La ENEE cancels public bid

The state-owned energy company, La ENEE, cancelled a public bid for 250 megawatts of renewable energy for reasons of national security and to guaranty electric supply to the population. No further explanation was reported.

Earthquake October 22


We had another earthquake at 1:52 a.m. I'm going to guess that it was around a 4.0 magnitude, maybe a little higher depending upon how far away the epicenter was. I admit that I am a little rusty since it has been a few months since we had the string of earthquakes. The quake was strong enough to cause El Jefe to jump out of bed from a sound sleep.


No official reports on the magnitude as the Nicaraguan site apparently doesn't update at night and the USGS Earthquake site....well, you'll read about that in the next article.


Update:


Apparently it was a 4.6 magnitude located on the island of Roatán. Here is the Nicaraguan earthquake data:

Earthquake data - from Nicaragua


Here is the USGS earthquake nondata:

Earthquake data - from US government

Those are for the person who thinks that I'm delusional and that an earthquake can't be hidden. Hahaha. Anyone can visit those sites to see the original maps. Both sites are updated every 5 minutes. The US site includes one week of data. The Nicaraguan site includes 10 days. So, be my guest, and tell me who is hiding an earthquake?

I didn't want to believe it of my government either, but the facts are there in living color.


Related article about the US non-reporting of Honduran quakes:

4.5 earthquake north of Tela (August 8, 2009)
Honduran earthquake (October 19, 2009)
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