Though it will ultimately be forced on Honduras by the 'international community' led by the United States, nobody wants amnesty and nobody asked for it.
The National Anti-corruption Council, the Catholic Cardinal, the association of Evangelical Churches, the business community, the largest civic group (Unión Cívica Democrática (UCD), an alliance of Honduran civic groups), to name a few, have come out STRONGLY, frequently, and consistently against granting any type of amnesty, particularly if it blurs into the area of corruption and financial malfeasance, which it will.
The ad above asks, "For what strange reason is the Congress working on an amnesty that no one wants?"
Dec. 17 poll*: Do you agree with ample and unconditional amnesty for Mel Zelaya and his associates? No 82%, Yes 18%
Reader comments on newspaper articles and television polls show that overwhelmingly the Honduran public does not want amnesty. They want all criminals to be punished for their crimes. That is what they have always wanted.
The military chiefs who ordered that Zelaya be taken to Costa Rica have been charged in court. They have strongly rejected amnesty, saying that they want their day in court. They believe that they can prove that there were valid and legal reasons for exiling Zelaya.
Jan 14 Poll: Do you believe that the military complied with their duty in expatriating Manuel Zelaya? Yes 92%, No 8%
UnoAmérica, an international coalition of NGO's for the defense of freedom and democracy, says (in Spanish) that it was evident that Zelaya might end up in jail, so Hugo Chávez was ready (prior to June 28) to invade with armed paramilitaries to liberate and restore Zelaya to office. UnoAmérica warned (in Spanish) of a possible slaughter in Honduras on June 26 as well. Chávez had publicly said that he would "spill blood in the streets of Honduras" before June 28 as well as threatened invasion afterward.
Ulf Erlingsson compares the military's action to sailors who mutiny in order to save the ship and their own lives. Zelaya himself helped to proved the military's defense by his own actions, in calling for violence, making statements like "Restitution or death", and urging his followers to "Fight to the ultimate finish". Every time that Zelaya came close to Honduras after June 28, violence and deaths followed.
And what of the 'other side'? Manuel Zelaya doesn't want amnesty. He believes that he is innocent of any wrong doing whatsoever. He is the one who insisted that amnesty be taken out of the original San José Accord drafted by Oscar Arias and he was also the one to discard it from the final Tegucigalpa Accord though the US and OAS (Organization of American States) were pressuring for amnesty.
Zelaya's followers, the Resistencia, do not want anyone to be granted amnesty. Zelaya in particular has made it very clear that vengeance is his goal. He has often ranted about how he wants to see those he considers responsible for his downfall sent to prison for the rest of their lives.
For years and years, Gallup and other polls have shown that corruption is one of the top concerns among the Honduran population. As poor as this country is, security (from crime) and corruption almost always ranked first and second in some order, surprisingly above jobs, housing, education, and health. Those who speak for the people of Honduras should understand that the people want criminals tried, convicted, and punished. Amnesty sends completely the wrong message.
Dec. 3 Poll: What do you believe will happen after [the congress decision of] no restitution for Mel Zelaya? Asylum 29%, Trial 70%
The National Congress had been considering an amnesty proposal made by president-elect Pepe Lobo, but because of the public pressure and lack of time remaining in their terms, they have decided to postpone that decision for the new congress. If my memory serves me, the congress discussed and discarded the idea of amnesty back in August.
The only Honduran insisting on amnesty is Porfirio (Pepe) Lobo. He says it is necessary to grant amnesty to all actors in order to unite and reconcile the Honduran people. In today's La Prensa, Pepe mysteriously says that in private, "everybody wants it [amnesty]". "It's only in public that no one wants it." So without offending anyone in particular, Lobo has tainted everyone as a possible criminal needing amnesty! I have an idea that at the top of the list of those wanting amnesty (in private) are those high-level officials in Zelaya's government.
Despite the public proclamations against amnesty, Lobo insists on approval because he ensures that it is "a demand of the international community". Granting of amnesty is demanded by the international community as a condition to recognize Lobo's government, reports La Prensa. Money makes the world go 'round.
President Roberto Micheletti says that no one wants impunity for any acts of corruption any more. He suggested a really brilliant idea: a plebiscite, so that the people can decide. It will be interesting to hear those who supported the people's right to vote in Zelaya's rigged poll now backtrack and say that the people shouldn't have the right to decide this. It would also be interesting to hear the arguments of the US, OAS, and others who constantly claim to be speaking for the pueblo (people of Honduras). Unfortunately, a plebiscite costs tons of money, which Honduras does not have.
Lobo should have no problem getting that amnesty law passed after inauguration on January 27, when the Nacionalistas will hold 71 of the 128 congressional seats.
Dec 7 Poll: Do you share with Pepe Lobo that he should look for a honorable exit for Mel Zelaya? Yes 32%, No 68%
Pepe is definitely 'between a rock and a hard place'. He can either do what the people who elected him want and suffer the wrath of the international community, or he can disregard the electors to please the international community, who will throw a few bones (financial aid) Honduras' way. The Honduran government can't last much longer without international aid, but in the process, Lobo will be giving away a bit of the hard fought sovereignty and dignity for which the Micheletti administration fought so hard for Honduras and of which Hondurans have a newly found pride.
Dec. 15 Poll: Do you believe that it is necessary that Roberto Micheletti retire from the presidency of the Republic at this late date? Yes 15%, No 85%
Immediately after the elections, as a result of pressure from the US, Lobo began pushing for the resignation of Roberto Micheletti, saying that US $240 million from the IMF (International Monetary Fund) would be made available to Honduras if Micheletti did so. Now it appears that 'recognition' of Honduras and possibly these funds are being made dependent upon the granting of amnesty, despite the fact that amnesty was not in the Tegucigalpa Accord. Has anyone read the Tegucigalpa Accord?
While I'm giving Pepe Lobo the benefit of a doubt and truly hope that he is the best president that Honduras has ever had, based on what we have seen so far, I don't expect that we will be seeing Lobo stand up for the sovereignty of Honduras against the US, OAS, or international community. I hope that I'm wrong.
Lobo, and those Nacionalista congressmen who have been convinced, are quick to say that this amnesty would have nothing to do with common crimes such as illegal enrichment and corruption, I have serious doubts that it would work that way in reality. The study presented to congress included for consideration of amnesty acts of terrorism and sedition, as well as violent acts such as vandalism and conspiracy to distribute arms, so the proposal is going well beyond political crimes.
I say that this is very wrong-headed of the US to force amnesty upon Honduras. What would be the point of the Truth Commission if amnesty to all was previously granted? What is their motive? Do they really believe that this will help reconciliation? Do they know so little about Honduras? Those of us in Honduras know that is not true. My cynical side says that the 'international community' doesn't want to set a precedent that corrupt governors are tried and punished. On the other hand, it may be as simple as saving face for the US and the international community. Actors have received amnesty, ergo they must have been guilty, ergo the US was right to call it a coup.
What a miserable precedent to set for Honduras! Just at a time when so many Hondurans have united to make demands of their government (something that former US Ambassador Ford always said was the only thing that would ever change Honduras), their wishes to do the right thing are going to be crushed by the US and that imaginary 'international community'. No doubt next year, or the year after, the US and the IC will go back to blasting Honduras for not taking action against corruptos.
Honduran José Falck has several related articles in English:
Just say no to unrestricted amnesty and yes to the Truth Commision
Impunity must be irradicated from our country
Congress say no to amnesty and ALBA, at least for now
Ulf Erlingsson has a couple of related articles:
Pepe Lobo is walking on thin ice
The sensitive issue of amnesty in Honduras
Please read Ulf's suggestion in the third to last paragraph of the second article. What a Solomon-like solution that would be! I'd love to see that implemented.
*Note: The polls shown above are from Channel 10, a Liberal-party (Zelaya and Micheletti's party) leaning television station and one of the most popular in Honduras.