July 9, 2009

Arias got it wrong

Mel Zelaya with Óscar Arias
Photo: La Prensa, Honduras

In the Washington Post, Costa Rican President Óscar Arias wrote:
This coup d'état demonstrates, once more, that the combination of powerful militaries and fragile democracies creates a terrible risk. It demonstrates, once more, that until we improve this balance, we will always leave open the door to those who would obtain power through force -- whether a little or a great deal, approved by the majority or only by a few. Furthermore, it shows what happens when our governments divert to their militaries resources that could be used to strengthen their democratic institutions, to build a culture of respect for human rights and to increase their levels of human development. Such foolish choices ensure that a nation's democracy is little more than an empty shell, or a meaningless speech.

I have much respect for President Arias, but this time he has it all wrong. The risk may be there, but what he describes is not what happened in Honduras. He has bought into the slanted CNN coverage and the lies of Mel Zelaya. The Honduran military is not in charge of Honduras, the government is. I wish he could come to Honduras to see that but I understand why he cannot.

Hondurans and those of us who live here have been victims of violence for a long time, and more so in the past 3 1/2 years during the presidency of Zelaya, during which the murder rate in Honduras soared from 35 in 2005 before Zelaya took office to 57.9 per 100,000 in 2008. This year shows every sign of being even higher. By comparison, the worldwide average is around 8, the US is around 5.5, and Canada is around 2, per 100,000. One of my neighbors was murdered by having his throat cut during a robbery two months ago.

Our civil rights have been violated, but not by the military − by the criminals. The regularly scheduled landings of drug planes are widely known by the population who are afraid to try to do anything about it. Kidnappings, robberies and muggings go unreported because it is a waste of time to report them and often the police are involved in the crimes.

Last month when the OAS (Organization of American States) met in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, with the proposed theme of 'Peace,' no one noticed the irony of what was happening outside their luxury quarters. In fact, both Mel Zelaya and Patricia Rodas diminished the theme by complaining of being 'victims' of the curta urna opposition, while they campaigned for the inclusion of Cuba in the OAS.

Just the fact that the pro-Zelaya protesters are out protesting and vandalizing every day should show that the military are allowing freedom of expression. Many of us wish they would take action against them. Aren't peaceful people entitled to some rights, too? Shouldn't criminals be prosecuted?

Zelaya has apparently bought the teachers union. Teachers, who for years have protested and held strikes against Mel's government almost monthly for the past three years, are now striking on behalf of Mel.

Some dedicated teachers who care about the children they teach are teaching in playgrounds and under trees because they do not agree with their union leaders. Just a few minutes ago, I listened to a teacher who was doing that. A masked man in a car with no license plate came to her home and threatened her, telling her that she had better not teach any more. She was very frightened and upset.

Business owners have been threatened as well. Their businesses have been vandalized. Tegucigalpa is being terrorized by Mel Zelaya's supporters, whether under his instruction or Chávez's, I do not know.

Honduras has not had a true democracy. Citizens, especially the poor, are used for their vote every four years and ignored the rest of the time. Votes can easily be bought, sometimes even for tamales, from those who can't feed their children. Rather than a democracy, it has been more of a feudal system, with elected officials considering themselves rulers of their kingdoms rather than a public servant who has to answer to the citizens. Honduras has been drowning in corruption.

This is Honduras' chance to turn their country into a true democracy.
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