The Channel 8 congressional vote
(Photo: El Heraldo, Honduras)
(Photo: El Heraldo, Honduras)
This is an update on the Channel 8 issue. The background can be found at Expropriation of media in Honduras
Today is a sad day for Honduras because of an unimportant dispute — does it really matter if the government or Teleunsa broadcasts on Channel 8 or another channel? Not really. What does matter is that the courts definitively decided that Teleunsa had legal right to Channel 8. In fact, Teleunsa had been billed (and paid) for its use in March 2010 by the government regulator, Conatel. But the Congress took it upon themselves to be the final arbitrator of justice in Honduras.
According to the Honduran constitution, the government is exercised by three powers: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial, complementary and independent and without relations of subordination, each with their specific duties and responsibilities.
I saw that this is no longer true yesterday as we watched the entire four hours of congressional proceedings. While many of the congressmen made me proud to be a gringa-catracha, certain members of congress showed their complete lack of respect for the separation of powers and the laws, and chose instead to play on emotions and claim to be "defending the rights of the pueblo" against a greedy businessman. Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, in Honduras, lead floats and cork sinks.
President Pepe Lobo and his spokespersons have stated that the court overstepped it bounds, yet the congress overstepped its bounds by overruling a supreme court decree. The President has chosen and the Congress agreed to honor a subordinate law, resulting in violation of the separate but equal powers granted by the constitution. The final word on any legal issue now comes from the presidency, not the courts.
The President of the Congress, Juan Orlando Hernández, went so far as to say that if they were making a mistake with their vote, someone else could correct it, implying that those congressmen who objected on legal and constitutional grounds were making much ado about nothing.
Many of the uneducated in the pueblo have bought the emotional propaganda — a rich guy was trying to take something away from the people. They don't know the legal background or realize the long reaching effects of this decision. They may believe that things have always been done this way when it's convenient and they are probably right about that. However, many others, who do think past the current moment, realize that this single decision could have a long lasting detrimental effect on the already devastated economy of this country. Manipulating the views of the masses is a lot easier than those of potential investors.
At the last minute, the government propaganda adopted the use of the term 'migration' to be used in place of 'expropriation' as the media had been calling the action. They are merely 'migrating' Teleunsa to a different television frequency, perfectly reasonable and legal, they say. Perhaps they will feel differently in 2014 if a new regime 'migrates' all of the nacionalista-friendly channels to the far end of the spectrum where the majority of the (poor) population without cable TV won't be able to pick up the signals. Government spokespersons have already indicated that they have a need for more channels.
So now we know how it really is in Honduras. The President can rule by decree. The Congress is subordinate to the wishes of the President. The President and Congress can pick and choose which Supreme Court rulings can be disregarded. Justice can be decided by the Congress (or more accurately, the ruling political party) if they don't agree with the justice doled out by the courts. Most importantly, political affiliations are more important than either the laws, the balance of power, or the constitution. A prospective businessman might presume that if the "pueblo" wants, needs, or thinks it deserves his property, it could be taken, just as Hugo Chávez expropriates property and media of anyone who "offends" him in Venezuela in the name of the "pueblo".
From Dr. Ulf Erlingsson's article on this issue:
"The eery feeling in Honduras under Lobo is of a “dejá vu all over again”. Lobo misunderstood the lesson from June 28 last year. Instead of learning that nobody is above the law not even the president, he understood that a president is an elected modern-day king. Why did he get it wrong? Simple. The international community reacted as if the president is a modern-day elected king, and that’s the lesson he learned."I'll be watching the news to find out if the court will roll over and submit to political powers or whether criminal actions will be filed as they were against the Conatel officials in 2008 for disobeying their order. Imagine the ruckus that would cause in the international community. I'll also be watching for an announcement from the US Embassy, since both of Asfura's cases were included in their annual Human Rights Reports in prior years.
MelWars: ¿Gallo ó Gallina? canal 8 pertenece a Elías Asfura
Blogicito: a 2008 article about the kingdom effect, A Vicious Cycle. I readily admit that I was foolish enough to believe that the politicians had learned a lesson and that this time would be different.