February 5, 2010

Honduran amnesty and truth

The Honduran National Congress approved the amnesty decree, as demanded by the United States of America, on the morning of Pepe Lobo's inauguration. The decree covers acts committed from January 1, 2008 until January 27, 2010.

A copy of the explanation of motives and final decree (in Spanish) was provided to me by a Honduran congressman. A Google translation of that document to English is here. It is far from a perfect translation but should give you an idea of the background and the decree.

Specifically excluded from amnesty are all actions which constitute crimes related to corruption, misappropriation of public funds, illegal enrichment and other crimes against humanity (which relates to the alleged human rights violations).

Though news reports implied that all acts of treason, sedition, abuse of authority, violation of duties, usurpation of functions were granted amnesty, the decree specifies only certain paragraphs
under each of these categories of the penal code. A copy of the Honduran penal code can be found here (in Spanish).

Related article: El Heraldo: Amnistía es por 40 años

Terrorism is forgiven

Incredibly, 'terrorism' is among the acts that will be forgiven. Specifically, these acts defined in the penal code are covered (my rough translation):

"335.6 Those who integrate armed groups who invade or assault the population, farms, roads, hospitals, banks, commercial centers, work centers, churches, or other similar places, causing death, fires, or property damage, or exercise violence over persons....."

"335.7 Those who provoke property damage using bombs, explosives, chemical substances, flammables, or similar."

"335.8 Those who, through threats or violence or by simulating public authority or false orders of the same, ..... obligate another to submit, send, deposit, or put at his disposition property, money, or documents capable of producing judicial effects. Likewise, those who by these same means obligate another person to sign or destroy documents in his possession."

Attorneys have opined that victims of terrorism could file civil suits against the government of Honduras for restitution. The government has already been stuck with the bill for millions for repairing several electrical towers which were sabotaged.

Can you understand my dismay (to put it mildly) that the USA while it continues its own unforgiving war on terrorism forced this amnesty business on Honduras? Expressing political differences is one thing; burning buses, cars, and restaurants, throwing bombs and grenades at radio stations and newspapers, and endangering lives and property of innocent people is something else.

The voting

The Nacionalista party (Lobo's party) holds the majority of the congressional seats, 71 of 128. Though it was reported that the Nacionalistas voted in block, one congressman said that he and another Nacionalista voted against amnesty. There are no statistics, but many say that the majority of Nacionalista party members are against amnesty and feel betrayed by the congressional approval.

The Liberal party (Zelaya and Micheletti's party) congressmen abstained from voting because the public wasn't consulted and they felt that the facts should be known to the Truth Commission before granting amnesty, but El Tiempo reports that five Liberal congressmen were against amnesty and three were in favor.

Four PINU congressmen abstained as well, logically saying that the Truth Commission should be installed and the congress should know who was being pardoned and for what acts.

Two DC congressmen voted in favor. Four UD (formerly pro-Zelaya and pro-Resistance) voted against amnesty.

Corruptos need to go to jail

"Corruptos need to go to jail, period," said Lobo during his inauguration speech, to wild cheering of the audience. What is the point of a Truth Commission if the verdict − amnesty − has already been given?

Hondurans hope that the Truth Commission will not be a farce and will not only explain the facts leading up to June 28, but will also expose the errors of the USA and OAS (Organization of American States) involvement. But, since it appears that the USA and OAS will be in charge of the Truth Commission (though they deny it) and will be working very hard to cover up their part in worsening the situation, there isn't much chance of that happening.

The Unión Cívica Democrática (UCD), which represents a large portion of civil society, has strongly objected to the OAS taking any part in the Truth Commission on the grounds that they are not impartial. Here is UCD's original open letter in Spanish. A translation to English is here.

Victor Rico was sent to Honduras by the OAS a couple of days ago. He gave a press conference yesterday to clarify that the OAS was only here to help. The tone of his press conference was a little defensive. It was clear that he had gotten an earful from someone.
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