December 24, 2010

Feliz Navidad and Merry Christmas

Wishing all of the Blogicito readers a very, very Merry Christmas!

I have been a neglectful blogger but an excellent homemaker Hondureña lately. I made homemade tamales (about 50 of them!) along with Arexy's help — which was a bit of a case of the blind leading the blind. I'll have to tell you more about it next week, but suffice it to say that they turned out to be the best tamales in the world! Really!

My tamales have received outstanding (though slightly surprised) reviews from every Honduran who has tasted them. (How can a gringa make good tamales?!) Especially surprised was my sister-in-law who assured me that "at least 3 pounds of lard and 30 bouillon cubes" were needed to "give them flavor". Kenia said that la gringa wraps better than she does. More on the tamales later.

I've also made a dozen loaves of homemade bread for gifts for the family and friends. I've had a regular assembly line going in the kitchen all week.

Today I'm roasting a pork leg — another Honduran tradition, at least in this part of the country. I'm kinda-sorta following my sister-in-law's recipe for that, omitting about a cup and a half of salt-providing ingredients, like an entire box of bouillon cubes. ;-) We are going to have a culturally confused meal: Roasted pork, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Pork sandwiches are also a tradition over the holidays, which is the reason that I thought of making the bread for gifts.

And overall, for the sake of my mental health, I've been ignoring the "Zelaya-is he here-is he coming-is he going to get off scot-free" question as much as possible. I'm sure that he planned to be here, and probably thought that all Christmas festivities would stop while the people worshiped him instead, but it doesn't look like that will happen. I think that is best for a peaceful Navidad in Honduras.

My gift to readers (one of my best recipes) is going to be delayed as I just couldn't get it done today.

I hope your Christmas is the best ever!

December 19, 2010

Guest blog: Wikileaks and the Honduran Crisis

Wikileaks and the Honduran Crisis
- by Jorge Gallardo Rius

Given that the Wikileaks disclosures have again brought to life the debate on the Honduran Crisis, I think it's important to make a new considerations on the data.

1. It should be quite clear that the Llorens and Ford documents are simply opinions. What is specially important about the Ford document is that he foretold the events that would occur more than a year later when he warned that Zelaya would be a danger to Honduran Democracy. This is how scientific theories are established: by their ability to foretell events yet unknown. This leads credence to Mr. Ford's opinion.

2. Mr. Llorens tries to make a legal case for the illegality of Zelaya's ouster. We note also that the US Library of Congress's Law Library made an equally valid case for the legality of the actions. The existence of these two opposite opinions leads us to two conclusions: First that the Honduran impeachment process is faulty and lends itself to legal and illegal interpretations simultaneously and thus, second, its like the famous question of whether you want to see the glass of water "half empty or half full".

3. The only truly valid opinion in this case, and it should be recognized as such, is that of the Honduran Supreme Court that ruled the actions illegal and consequently ordered his arrest BEFORE the events ocurred. The rest can opinionate one way or the other whether they were right or wrong as it will surely continue forever and ever, but the fact remains the the only valid, legal opinion at that point, before the events, was that of the Honduran Supreme Court that ordered his arrest.

While the question of legality or illegality is important, to the majority of Hondurans there is a more important consideration.

4. It should be quite clear to all reasonable persons that Zelaya intended to lead Honduras down the path of a 21st Century Socialism model, that he was following Hugo Chavez's script for a Constituent Assembly (as Hitler did in 1933) and that the intention was to install a Cuban/Venezuelan style regime in Honduras. These facts are evident from the support that Chavez gave to the process before and after the events of June 28th, 2009.
5. Despite all the problems and faults of our democratic system, installed and maintained by the 1982 Constitution, the vast majorities of the Honduran people do not want and oppose a Communist regime for our country. This is evident in the massive voting that took place in the November 2009 election, held according to the laws prescribed by the 1982 Constitution which establishes the Honduran Democratic System, based on the rule of law, the separation of powers, the alternation of power in the Executive branch and free elections held regularly every 4 years and in which we choose our next President, congressmen and mayors.

6. Some argue that the elections were not valid because they were not overseen by the OAS and the Carter Center, which did oversee elections known to be corrupt and said nothing. They were overseen by very important organizations, just as legal, valid and experienced. The thing is that the elections were valid to more than 2 million Hondurans and the vast majority of our population. Look at the results of elections in Haiti, overseen by the OAS and the Carter Center: Not accepted by the population.

7. Thus, between Mr. Llorens's half-empty legal interpretation of the events of June 28th and the US Library of Congress and the Honduran supreme Court's half-full legal interpretation of the same events, the majority of Hondurans support the half-full version, an opinion supported and expressed by the Honduran Congress in December, 2009.

So, what is Democracy? Isn't it, as Lincoln said "a government of the people, for the people and by the people"? It is not up to foreign powers, be they the US or Venezuela, to decide whether Honduras is a democratic country, or even for multinational organizations, such as the OAS to decide. It is we, the people of Honduras, who have the right to determine whether our country is democratic or not and the kind of democracy that we cherish. And that's what we did in the 2009 election.

There is a third consideration that should be made in the evaluation of the current Honduran situation.

1. In the United Nations listing of poor, middle income and developed nations, Honduras is listed among the middle income nations. In order to pass from a poor country to a middle income country as it did in 2007 under Zelaya's rule, one of the important indicators is that a country must present at least 3 years of continuous over-5% economic growth. This happened in the years 2004, 2005 and 2006; that is, the last 2 years of Maduro's presidency and the first year of President Zelaya's term. Then it shot downwards again.

2. Obviously, to understand this phenomenon, you must look at the actions taken during the first years of the Maduro Presidency, in which he consolidated a strong control of the macroeconomic indicators, contained government expenses, installed new measures to promote transparency and put order into the financial markets. It produced 3 years of economic growth.

3. It also achieved the pardoning of our foreign debt and the consolidation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy in which funds used to cancel foreign debt could now be used for Poverty Reduction Programs, which for transparency's sake would be overseen by the nations who were condoning our foreign debt, but guided by the "dialogue tables" that had been carried out at the start of the Maduro Presidency.

4. This should explain why the common expression, very popular in the media when Zelaya was elected, was that "The table is set". Zelaya's government entering in January 2006 had all the tools to carry out a progressive reform and mark a substantial decrease in the real poverty levels of Honduras.

5. But Zelaya's new government put an end to poverty reduction programs, to the efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and all efforts to end endemic poverty, and began a conscience-buying, political hand-out structure to benefit his close friends and family (As Mr. Ford pointed out). 18 months after Zelaya took power, Sweden, one of the participating governments in the Poverty Reduction Strategy, pulled out.

6. In his 3 ½ years, Zelaya returned us to a bankrupt nation, with reduced growth indicators, an education system in shambles, drove the Workers' Bank and the Teachers' Pension Fund into bankruptcy, and left is even without a national budget.

Zelaya's incompetence in the economic issues has left the majority of Hondurans asking: where did all the funds for poverty reduction and the economic stability go? Truly, a President can't be removed for being incompetent as Zelaya proved to be, but for the attempted destruction of the democratic system, yet one must ask where do the foreigners think that Zelaya's "popularity" rests?

While pundits can argue forever whether it was a coup or not, the majority of Hondurans view the overall questions: First, the "coup or not" saved the country from a communist regime. Second, it convinced us all that the crisis was due to the abuses of the political classes and that we must remain always vigilant. And thirdly, we are convinced that the only way to end the abuse of the political class, whichever party they belong to or social system they promote, is to require transparency and the rule of law. These conclusions are supported by the recent Latin American Barometer poll in Honduras.

It is on this point, the solution to the crisis, that the foreign governments have been sadly amiss with their insistence on returning Zelaya without facing trials to Honduras. We have no doubt that Zelaya was corrupt and we believe that Zelaya must come and face the justice system, whereas currently to lay to rest the "coup" theories of the South American Autocracies there is a new attempt to whitewash Zelaya's corruption and abuse of power. The majority of Honduran people simply want Zelaya to become the first victim of legality, transparency, honesty and decency, and thus set an example that will serve present and future generations of what happens when the polititians abuse the power given to them by the people.

Sadly, the current US administration and our European friends have left us without the support we need to defend decency in our country.


Jorge Gallardo Rius is a Honduran citizen who was born in La Ceiba and currently lives in Tegucigalpa. He studied in Louisiana, Houston, and Romania and is currently an Information Systems Analyst. Jorge's mother was a US citizen so he grew up speaking both languages at home. For a time, he wrote a weekly column on Education and Technology for an English-language weekly newspaper. He offers English/Spanish and Spanish/English translations. Sr. Gallardo can be contacted at jgallardo515 at

December 13, 2010

"Baseball" avocados

baseball avocadosI call this a baseball avocado

We did the unthinkable, the unpardonable, the very stupid thing of planting seeds from hybrid fruits and this is what we get. Perfectly round, baseball sized avocados. After waiting about 5 years, we now have two huge baseball avocado trees.

I know better, I really do. It's just that these seeds were growing so nicely in the compost pile and since they had such a strong desire to live, I couldn't help myself but to plant them.

Someone picked a couple of them when they were rock hard. I waited and waited, then sort of forgot and the next time I checked, the last one had already gone bad. El Jefe told me later that he had opened the other one and the bit of it that wasn't already bad actually tasted pretty good, like a Haas avocado. So maybe all is not lost.

Full confession: We also planted two avocado seeds from those long handled avocados that tasted so good. I don't know if they are hybrids or not. We'll see what happens.

Some people never learn.

December 12, 2010

Nature is amazing

coral, Utila, Honduras
A piece of coral found on the beach on the island of Utila, Honduras.

A big thank you, whoever you are

A new weapon against lumpy soups and ice creams!

A great big thank you goes to whoever selected this Cuisinart Stick Blender from my Amazon wishlist! What a nice gift and I've been wanting one of these for ages. I just received it last night and I have no idea who sent it. If you would like to let me know by emailing, I'd like to thank you personally. It is a very generous gift and I really, really appreciate it.

I can't wait to try it out on my Chipotle Butternut Squash Soup or Baked Potato Soup recipes. It was such a pain putting those hot soups bit by bit into the blender to puree them. I also have a new Gelato cookbook which recommends using a stick blender on almost all of its custard based recipes so I think it will get a lot use.

Thank you!

December 10, 2010

Wikileaks: The real Manuel Zelaya

The following is one of the Wikileaks cables from former US Ambassador to Honduras, Charles Ford, dated May 15, 2008. I've decided to reprint the entire cable here, since these things have a way of disappearing, but I obtained the original from El Pais, Spain.

This cable, unlike the previous one from US Ambassador Hugo Llorens, who had only been assigned to Honduras for less than a year on June 28, 2009, reflect Ambassador Ford's view of President Manuel (Mel) Zelaya after several years experience and innumerable personal meetings with him. The emphasis and comments in brackets [] are mine:

ID: 154125
Date: 2008-05-15 20:54:00
Origin: 08TEGUCIGALPA459
Source: Embassy Tegucigalpa
Classification: SECRET
Destination: VZCZCXRO5637
DE RUEHTG #0459/01 1362054
O 152054Z MAY 08




E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/14/2018




1. (S) Summary: Honduran President Jose Manuel "Mel"
Zelaya Rosales is a throwback to an earlier Central
American era, almost a caricature of a land-owner "caudillo"
in terms of his leadership style and tone. Ever the rebellious
teenager, Zelaya's principal goal in office is to enrich
himself and his family while leaving a public legacy as
martyr who tried to do good but was thwarted at
every turn by
powerful, unnamed interests. Various
public statements over his tenure suggest he would be
quite comfortable as a martyr [See my
May 2007 article: Oh, boo hoo, everyone is against me]
who tried but failed honorably in his attempt to seek out
social justice for the poor. He is comfortable working with
the Armed Forces and until recently with the Catholic
Church, yet resents the very existence of the
Congress, the Attorney
General and Supreme
Court. Over his two and a half years in

office, he has become increasingly surrounded by
involved in organized crime activities. End

2. (S) I have gotten to know Mel Zelaya quite well
over my
tenure as Ambassador, and offer these
personal reflections on
his character, his views
of the United States, and on what
his presidency
means for our interest in the region
with the
objective of informing future policy choices.

3. (S) Personally, I have found Zelaya to be gracious and
charming, quite willing to tell me whatever he thinks I want
to hear at that moment. For example, in the period
June-August 2007, we must have met weekly, with his
agenda focused on explaining his nomination of Jorge
Arturo Reina
(who lost his U.S. visa for past terrorist
connections) as
the UN Ambassador, his presence in
Managua at Sandinista celebrations and his intentions with
regard to Hugo Chavez. It was interesting to see how
his explanations differed from
meeting to meeting,
almost as if he had no recollection of

our exchange just a few days before.

4. (S) In the period May-June 2006, Zelaya pressed me
hard to obtain President Bush's approval of his plan to join
PetroCaribe. When he met in early June with President
Bush who confirmed our strong opposition to his intention,
Zelaya later told me that he was surprised that this item
had been on our agenda. In short, over an almost
three year period it
has become crystal clear
to me that Zelaya's views change by
the day or
in some cases by the hour, depending on his mood

and who he has seen last.

5.(S) Not surprisingly, Zelaya has no real friends outside
of his family, as he ridicules publicly those closest to him.
In the days preceding his inauguration, Zelaya without prior
notification canceled a country team briefing for his new
cabinet. Over a private lunch he explained that he trusted
no one in his government and asked me the question: "Who
is the most powerful; the person with a knife behind the
door or the person outside the door who knows there is
someone behind the door with a knife?" It is clear to me
that tactically he will work with almost anyone, but
strategically he stands alone.

6. (S) Zelaya also has been quite erratic in his
Despite his often harsh public rhetoric, such
as describing U.S. immigration policy against
illegal aliens
as "persecution" by "fascists", Zelaya
would meet again with President Bush in a heartbeat. At
one point he even planned to go uninvited to a bilateral
Bush-Berger meeting in Guatemala. Zelaya not only
allowed the first visit of a U.S. warship to mainland
Honduras in 22 years, but he delivered a

TEGUCIGALP 00000459 002 OF 004

ringing speech extolling bilateral relations on the ship's
deck, only briefly expressing pride in Honduras' capture and
execution of the American interventionist William Walker.
Always suspicious of American intentions, he
submitted to a psychological profile
at my Residence - twice.
His erratic behavior
appears most evident when he
deliberately stirs
street action in protest against his own

government policy - only to resolve the issue (teacher
complaints, transportation grievances, etc) at the last
moment. This approach to problem solving seems to be
Zelaya's way of gaining acceptance, challenging the
established political power structure, and moving his
agenda - which is not populist or ideological, but is
based on popular appeal.

7. (S) Zelaya remains very much a rebellious teenager,
anxious to show his lack of respect for authority
Cardinal Andres Rodriguez has told me
that not only did he
not graduate from university
but he actually did not graduate
from high school.
The Cardinal should know, as he was one of
his teachers. The problem is that Mel has acted in this
juvenile, rebellious manner his entire life and succeeded in
reaching the highest office in the land. No need to change
now. He will continue to lead a chaotic, highly disorganized
private life.

8. (S) There also exists a sinister Zelaya, surrounded
by a
few close advisors with ties to both Venezuela
and Cuba and
organized crime. Zelaya's desperate
defense of former
telecommunications chief
Marcelo Chimirri (widely believed to
be a
murderer, rapist and thief) suggests that Chimirri
much over Zelaya himself. [See my many articles on Marcelo Chimirri here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.]
Zelaya almost assuredly takes strong medication for a
severe back problem and perhaps other
drugs as well. His vehement attacks on the press have
reportedly endangered journalists opposed to Zelaya's
policies. His style and tone in order to get his way is one
of intimidation and bullying, threatening tax inspections and
worse rather than substantive debate on issues. Zelaya's
inability to name a Vice Minister for Security lends
credibility to those who suggest that narco traffickers have
pressured him to name one of their own to this position.
Due to his close association with persons believed to be
involved with international organized crime, the motivation
behind many of his policy decisions can certainly be
questioned. I am unable to brief Zelaya on
sensitive law
enforcement and counter-narcotics
actions due my
concern that this would put the
lives of U.S. officials in jeopardy.

9. (S) Finally, Mel is very much a son of Olancho, aware of
his roots in the land and his family's ties to Honduras since
the 1500,s. Unlike most other Honduran leaders in recent
times, Zelaya,s view of a trip to the "big city" means
Tegucigalpa and not Miami or New Orleans. While he and his
family have been part of the Honduran landscape for 400
years, they have not until recently inter-married with the
Honduras elite in Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula. His son's
marriage in 2006 to one of the country's leading
Honduran-Arab families was very important to Zelaya yet a
complex event, signifying acceptance into the very elite
group that he so very much resents.

10. (S) I have found Zelaya's real views of the United
States hidden not too very deeply below the surface. In a
word, he is not a friend. His views are shaped not by
ideology or personal ambitions but by an old-fashioned
nationalism where he holds the United States
accountable for
Honduras, current state of poverty
and dependency.
Zelaya's public position against the
Contra War and against the establishment of Joint Task Force Bravo at Soto Cano Air

TEGUCIGALP 00000459 003 OF 004

Force Base are manifestations of this underlying viewpoint.

11. (S) Other behavior by the President confirms, in my
view, the depth of his feeling. While Zelaya was
open to our point
of view of the selection of key
members of his Cabinet, he
was absolutely closed
to listening to us on his appointment
of his
Ambassador to the OAS and to his appointment
of Jorge
Arturo Reina as Ambassador to the UN.
The Honduran voting record in the UN in terms of coincidence with US positions is at the lowest point in decades.

12. (S) More revealing, at public events with key officials
present, Zelaya will make clear that anyone interested in
becoming President of the country needs first to get the
blessing of the American Ambassador. Personally, in private
conversations at the Residence, Zelaya has recounted to
me, multiple times how a previous American Ambassador
had ordered the President of the Honduran Congress to
accept the Presidential candidacy of Ricardo Maduro, even
though in Zelaya,s view Maduro was Panamanian-born
and thus ineligible. Other sources have documented
Zelaya's views on this point where his anger and
resentment are more apparent than in his exchanges
with me. It is clear by the way he recounts the story that
on one level he resents very much this perceived
dependency yet accepts it exists and looks to
me to define for him the rules of the game. He becomes
frustrated at times when he believes I am not carrying out
this responsibility. [So much for the credibility of the US
claims that they don't interfere in the internal matters of Honduras.]

13. (S) Most noticeable to me has been his avoidance of
public meetings with visiting US officials. Whether Cabinet
officials or CODELs, Zelaya always is a gracious host, but
never comes out of the meeting to have his picture taken
publicly with our visitors, as he is so anxious to do with
other visitors from Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela. Almost
all of our meetings take place at my Residence rather than
at the more public setting of the Presidential Palace. He
made no attempt to disseminate his may photo ops with
President Bush after the June 2006 meeting in Washington.
The fact is that the President of the country prefers to
meet quite often in the privacy of my Residence but not
to be seen in public with American visitors.

14. (S) Finally, Zelaya recently is fond of saying that we
need to improve our communication, which I interpret to
mean that we need to agree with him more often. A similar
fate has befallen Cardinal Rodriguez who used to meet, as I
do, regularly with the President. As the Cardinal in recent
months has found himself in disagreement with Zelaya and
is not participating publicly in his projects, Zelaya is
working increasingly with pastors in the evangelical
community. The Cardinal recently told me that he and the
President hardly speak now as the President is unhappy
that he doesn't agree with the direction Zelaya is taking
the country. For Zelaya, communicating means agreeing unquestionably with his point of view.

15. (S) GOING FORWARD: The last year and a half of the
Zelaya Administration will be, in my view,
difficult for our bilateral relationship.

His pursuit of immunity from the numerous activities of organized crime carried out in his Administration will cause him to threaten the rule of law and institutional stability.

Honduran institutions and friendly governments will need to
be prepared to act privately and in public to help move
Honduras forward.

16. (S) We will need, in my view, to continue to engage
Zelaya whenever we can in order to minimize damage and to

TEGUCIGALP 00000459 004 OF 004

protect our core interests. As a rebellious teenager, he
will need a significant space to move, in but we must be
very direct in our conversations with him as to our core
interests. Despite his feelings towards us, he does respect
the role the U.S. Embassy is still perceived to play in
Honduran society and will expect us in private to be direct
and clear in our views. Using an analogy from American
football, we will need to continue to carry out an
aggressive bend but not break defensive game plan in
the run up to the next elections in November 2009. In this
way, I believe we can engage Zelaya intensely in the hope
of so as to minimizing damage to Honduran democracy and
the economy.

See also:
Wikileaks article on the cable

December 8, 2010

The unwanted foreigners list increases to eight

The man on left hugging Zelaya may be on the list

Áfrico Madrid, Minister of the Interior, announced yesterday that the list of foreigners being investigated had increased to six. Today he announced the addition of two more people for a total of eight.

Madrid also mentioned that the list includes residents as well as naturalized citizens, but he is not giving many clues as to what offense these people might have committed. He did mention that one or more are being investigated for organized crime ties, money laundering, and/or political activities.

There has been speculated that the man in the above photo is one of the foreigners being investigated. He is known among some Hondurans as "the Hindu". He was active in the violent demonstrations by the resistance last year and I can state that as fact because I saw him in Channel 36 videos with my own eyes. He talked to reporters as if he was a Honduran speaking for other Hondurans.

Interesting story: One day, which I believe was September 21, 2009, the day that Mel Zelaya returned to Honduras and entered the Brazilian embassy, I was watching Channel 36 Cholusat Sur on my laptop. Across the table, on his own laptop, was El Jefe, who could not see my screen. After a few minutes of listening, he said, "Who is that talking? He isn't Honduran! Why is he saying that he is Honduran?" El Jefe has a real knack for identifying accents. He said this man had a gringo accent.

Update 12/9/10: A video interview of "Emo" and some of his friends (in Spanish).

The lists

Flickr image: chisjohnbeckett

In a huge step toward transparency in Honduras, lists of taxpayers who have not paid their past due taxes were published on the Dirección Ejecutivo de Ingresos (DEI, similar to the US's IRS) website on December 1.

The lists were of such interest to Honduras that the website was unavailable much of the day due to overload. The DEI site broke the record for the highest number of visits ever in the history of Honduran government websites, totaling about 360,000 visits and 17,000 downloads in the first few days. In less than a week, the number of visitors has risen to 1.5 million.

Unfortunately for the listees, all that activity alerted Google and now when a search is performed for many of those names, the Google search page provides a link to the government document, along with the amount of their debt plainly described as tax owed to the Honduran government. Not good for business!

The lists include a 4-page list of 58 "grandes" (large) taxpayers whose debt totaled L 788 million and a 55-page list of 1,539 medium and small taxpayers which totaled L. 2.2 billion, for a total of L. 3 billion. The publication follows several months of "amnesty" in which interest and fines were waived if the debts were paid.

The following day, the DEI published lists of those who have failed to file tax returns, as well as businesses who were closed for non-payment or otherwise sanctioned. No amounts were given on those lists, but El Heraldo reports that 2,111 taxpayers owe a total of 4.121 billion. Then, yet two more lists were issued: 385 taxpayers who owe L.824 million and
62 taxpayers who owe L. 217.8 million. Things are really getting confusing, since the dozen reports are dated from November 23 to December 4, some people appear twice on the same list, and others appear on more than one list. It is unclear whether some of these reports overlap or are updates.

The DEI database categorizes 812 large contributors (list) as generating 87% of the total collections. La Tribuna reports that 1,614 medium taxpayers constitute 6% of total collections, and approximately 44,000 small taxpayers make up the remaining amount. That isn't many taxpayers in a country of 7.8 million.

It was hard to skim the long lists due to the inconsistent use of commas in the amounts due, but I found 58 taxpayers who owe more than L.5 million. Those in the 9-figure range are:
  • Han Soll Honduras, L. 526.5 million
  • Hondugres, L.415.4 million,
  • Kensa De Honduras, L. 204.7 million
  • Paradice (sic) Farms, L. 155 million
  • Wintex Honduras, L. 167.2 million
  • A.K.H. SA, L. 149.6 million
  • Atlas Distribuidora de Honduras, L. 102 million

A good question to ask is how these companies were allowed to amass such a large tax bill without serious action being taken sooner.

Some names possibly more well known to north American readers are Kraft Foods, L.18 million; Digicel, L.8.9 million; Alcatel Lucent Mexico, 6.6 million; Ericsson, L.4.5 million; Habitat para Humanity, 2.4 million.


According to the Director Ejecutivo of the DEI, Oswaldo Guillen (photo), publishing of the lists was approved by President Pepe Lobo, who indicated that all debtors should be listed, regardless of political party affiliations.

In a country where everyone seems suspicious of everyone else and where so many vague accusations of corruption are thrown around, getting the facts out in the open is a good thing. Of course, many have expressed doubts about whether the lists were actually complete or accurate. We may never know, but hopefully those who authorized and issued the reports realize the damage to their credibility that would be done by "fudging" the names or numbers.

Kudos to the DEI, the Minister of Finance, and President Lobo for allowing this first step toward real transparency. Apparently it was effective as Guillen stated that there were significantly increased tax collections the following day.

But publishing the lists is only the first step. Taking whatever measures are necessary to collect the taxes is the next. Starting with the largest debtors is the logical way to go.

More work to do, as the diplomats always say

And an additional step toward transparency is also needed. Revistazo, an online newspaper, has officially requested under the transparency law, and has been denied, access to a list of all taxpayers exonerated from paying taxes. Only certain company names have been released resulting in questions about under what law some of those companies would have qualified for exoneration.

This, of course, raises the usual suspicions that the rich and powerful can make back-door deals with politicians. If these exonerations were given in accordance with the law, there is no shame to be had by publishing the lists. However, President Lobo and the Minister of Finance should do everything in their power to take the appropriate action to expose and reverse any 'deals' that were not reached in accordance with the law.

Politics, politics, politics

Unfortunately, some media and bloggers are using the lists for political purposes, picking and choosing the few names they report based on what side of the political fence they are on.

For example, "El Liberator" writes "Empresario que organiza la Teleton le debe al Estado más de 16 millones", exposing José Rafael Ferrari for the debts of his companies Club Deportivo Olimpia (L.6.4 million) and Multifon (L.9.8 million), but fails to mention that the resistance-friendly Rosenthal family also controls companies which owe close to 100 million in back taxes. Half a dozen (so far) resistance bloggers dutifully republished the article with the accusation against Ferrari and again, without mentioning others more near and dear to their hearts.

The DEI list shows that Editorial Honduras S.A. de C.V. owes almost L.12 million. One of the more recent lists shows that Editorial Honduras owes L.81 million. Thinking that was a newspaper, I wanted to know which one. I did some research and found at the bottom of each webpage of the resistance-friendly, Rosenthal controlled newspaper El Tiempo is the following line: "Editorial Honduras, S.A DE C.V | Tel.(504)540-3388 | ©".

Two newspapers reported that Yani Rosenthal, a resistance-friendly potential presidential candidate, is the controlling owner of the soccer team Club Deportivo Marathon (L. 2.8 million). Honduras has a law that candidates who owe taxes may not run for office.

La Tribuna and Revistazo pointed out that both Marathon and Olympia teams owed taxes, La Tribuna without names and Revistazo with. However, Revistazo was initially working from a completely different list and reported several taxpayers by name as being the largest debtors, though they were only in the L.1-3 million range. No correction was made. Revistazo's December 6 article reported several companies by name, but omitted many others with much larger debts.

El Tiempo's original (and apparently only) article on this topic seems to have disappeared from their website It included no disclosure of it's own debt. I now get a 404-Error when I follow Google's link for both Tiempo's and La Tribuna's original articles. I even posted Tribuna's article on Facebook and discussed it with others, but the link no longer works.

nterestingly, I also cannot find El Heraldo's or Proceso Digital's original articles (from a Google news search) in which some companies were named. The apparently edited versions do not include any company names. Wow! Did they all individually have changes of heart or did the word come down from somewhere? Very suspicious and very worrisome.

I tried to find who owned or controlled some of the largest debtor companies but didn't find much of anything. I was surprised that the newspapers didn't devote more time to doing so, especially for political figures, government employees, and government contractors. This gives the impression of "not rocking the boat" or "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" which is all too prevalent in Honduras.

I did find one interesting thing.
Oleoproductos de Honduras (L. 29.4 million) and Industria Aceitera S.A. DE C.V. (L. 27.0 million) were being considered for a World Bank loan in mid-2009.

December 4, 2010

Five more naturalized citizens to lose their status

"I wish that freedom of expression be limitless and for my administration to be censored whenever they disagree so that I can know my mistakes"
José Trinidad Cabañas (1805-1871, twice president,
considered to be one of Honduras' greatest heros)

Honduran President Pepe Lobo announced to television reporters Thursday that five more naturalized Honduran citizens will lose their status.

Lobo claimed that the decisions were taken "not for what they express" but because "you all know that there are certain people who are naturalized who can't have a political participation." In some articles, that was reported as "an active political participation".

Initially, Minister of the Interior Áfrico Madrid announced that Federico Álvarez's citizenship was canceled due to paperwork errors, but now President Lobo is stating it is because of political activities. [More on paperwork problems in a following article.] Yesterday Madrid stated that Álvarez never had Honduran citizenship and to that end, "No one has taken it away".

"What we are trying to do is to put things in order, because Honduras is not a
"potrero" [def: pasture, field, vacant lot, waste land] where any person can come to do whatever they want .... This is a matter of national security," added Madrid.

Many are comparing this to the case of the expulsion of Padre Tamayo last year. I see a big difference. Padre Tamayo participated in violent demonstrations and promoted boycotting elections (a crime in Honduras). We all saw that on television. Additionally, the action against Tamyao was subject to a review by the Ministerio Publico and judicial process in the Supreme Court, which is not the case with Federico Ávarez.

Neither Álvarez, who is a well-known businessman in Tegucigalpa who has been decorated by two Honduran presidents and granted honorary citizenship by the National Congress, nor his attorney were ever notified of any paperwork deficiencies or given the chance to correct them, as you might expect since his documents had already been approved by the government and since his file included both his and his attorney's contact information. Instead his name was placed on a bulletin board in a government office giving him 30 days to respond. Not being aware of that, of course he did not respond. Case closed.

Many attorneys, as well as one of the President's own presidential designates, believe the government action to be wrong and illegal. A Roatán attorney with many years experience in immigration matters believes that the action against Federico Álvarez is politically motivated.


I believe that Federico Álvarez is being used as a scapegoat so that the Lobo administration cannot be accused of political persecution when they oust other, more militant naturalized citizens or residents from the other end of the political spectrum for their activities.

I also think that the government's failure to act in the violent Bajo Aguán situation during the past year is what is really behind this. It has been reported that Nicaraguans and Venezuelans are involved and may even be importing illegal arms and training 'guerrillas'. If foreigners are promoting illegal activities, violence, insurrection, and/or anarchy, those violations of the law should be openly addressed regardless of political affiliations. But to hide behind paperwork or procedural errors and take a victim on the "other side" to balance things out for the benefit of the eyes of the "international community" is just wrong.


"The problem lies not with the artist who paints a picture of an unpleasant reality or the photographer who captures the repulsive image, but in the grotesque act that happens."
recent La Tribuna editorial on the Congress' discussion
on censoring crime photos in the media

I don't know yet who these five people are or what they have done. I don't know if the reason will be given as additional paperwork errors or whether they will be accused of promoting anarchy or violence or in other ways have worked to damage stability in Honduras. If they have done so, then I agree that they probably should lose their citizenship — if that is what is provided under the law and if it can be proven, but not without a chance to defend themselves.

If they are being ousted merely for dissenting political opinions, then that is absolutely wrong and sets up all immigrants in Honduras to live in fear of each next administration — that their residency or citizenship could be revoked without any warning or ability to correct their paperwork or defend themselves. Those immigrants include those now being enticed by the government to come to Honduras to open businesses and provide badly needed jobs.

And what of the tens of thousands of foreigners who live in or come to Honduras each year to merely help the poor? Could their activities be considered political? If they complain about the health care or education being received by the poor, will that be considered a political statement? If they help a poor person file a denuncia, is that a political act?

This action is intimidating to everyone, not just foreign-born residents. Citizens have to worry that there could be repression of their rights and/or retaliation because of their opinions. Could there be paperwork errors in the deed to your house, your business permit, your income tax return? Could your job be threatened because of your political views? We already know that is a well-accepted tactic. Thousands of government employees have lost their jobs and been replaced by activistas in the Nacionalista party, as is the case whenever a new administration takes over.


Lobo declared that the law must be applied to all, regardless of their politics. Yes, that is absolutely true. It should be. But there is not one person in Honduras who would agree that the law is applied equally to all in Honduras. And it is hypocritical of Lobo to say so when he has made every effort to ensure that the law will not apply to crimes of Zelaya.

Father Tamayo's actions were tolerated by the Zelaya administration but not the Micheletti administration. Federico Álvarez's actions were tolerated by the Micheletti administration but not the Lobo administration. Five more unnamed persons were tolerated by the Micheletti administration and possibly as far back as the Zelaya administration but not the Lobo administration. Whose views will the next administration agree with?

A naturalized Honduran citizen cannot run for public office, but they have all the rights of a natural born Honduran citizen, with that exception.

Article 31 of the Honduran constitution grants foreign residents the same civil rights as Hondurans, with the restrictions that for reasons qualified as public order, security, social interest or convenience/benefit established by the laws.

Article 32 of the constitution states that foreigners can not carry out national or international "political activities" in the country, under penalty of being sanctioned in conformity with the Law.

It seems obvious to me that a Supreme Court opinion is needed to define what exactly constitutes "political activity" and/or harm to the country.

But instead of putting up a smokescreen that makes all foreigners in Honduras feel uneasy, why not address the target directly? Taking action against those who have committed illegal activities (narcotrafficking, importing arms, inciting violence, committing actual crimes, etc.) that actually do affect national security would show the world that Honduras is not a potrero.

Related articles:

Blogicito: Honduras attacks freedom of speech
Blogicito: Freedom of expression is a human right, not a Honduran right
Pensieve: President Lobo vs. Free Speech
Honduras: Libre Democratica Independiente: I condemn the attempt on the freedom of expression of Mr. Federico Alvarez
El Peragrimo: Nationality versus Civil Rights: The Curious Case of Honduras

In Spanish:

Camino Democrático: ¿Nos estamos convirtiendo en Honduzuela?
The Honduras Journal: Lobo es alérgico a las criticas
Honduras Libre y en Democracia: Persecución Política!!

November 29, 2010

Freedom of expression is a human right, not a Honduran right

The government of Honduras needs to be reminded that freedom of expression is a human right that has nothing to do with nationality.

The Honduran constitution (1982) prohibits foreigners from carrying out political activities, but to stretch the definition of 'political activities' to include writing opinion articles is a clear violation of the rights granted by the member states of the United Nations
(of which Honduras has been a member since 1945) and the Organization of American States. Honduras was suspended from active participation in the OAS on July 5, 2009, but was still expected to "fulfill its obligations as a member of the Organization, in particular with regard to human rights".

The following are excerpts from the related documents. The complete documents are also available in other languages, including Spanish, at the links given.
Emphasis is mine.


The following is from the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the full text of which appears in the following pages. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories."


Article 2.

* Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.


Article 19.

* Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.


From the OAS's Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression:


REAFFIRMING the need to ensure respect for and full enjoyment of individual freedoms and fundamental rights of human beings under the rule of law;

AWARE that consolidation and development of democracy depends upon the existence of freedom of expression;

PERSUADED that the right to freedom of expression is essential for the development of knowledge and understanding among peoples, that will lead to a true tolerance and cooperation among the nations of the hemisphere; CONVINCED that any obstacle to the free discussion of ideas and opinions limits freedom of expression and the effective development of a democratic process;



1. Freedom of expression in all its forms and manifestations is a fundamental and inalienable right of all individuals. Additionally, it is an indispensable requirement for the very existence of a democratic society.

2. Every person has the right to seek, receive and impart information and opinions freely under terms set forth in Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights. All people should be afforded equal opportunities to receive, seek and impart information by any means of communication without any discrimination for reasons of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, economic status, birth or any other social condition.


5. Prior censorship, direct or indirect interference in or pressure exerted upon any expression, opinion or information transmitted through any means of oral, written, artistic, visual or electronic communication must be prohibited by law. Restrictions to the free circulation of ideas and opinions, as well as the arbitrary imposition of information and the imposition of obstacles to the free flow of information violate the right to freedom of expression.


From the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights:

(Adopted by the Ninth International Conference of American States, Bogotá, Colombia, 1948)


Article IV. Every person has the right to freedom of investigation, of opinion, and of the expression and dissemination of ideas, by any medium whatsoever.


Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

Freedom of Thought and Expression

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and expression. This right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of one's choice.

2. The exercise of the right provided for in the foregoing paragraph shall not be subject to prior censorship but shall be subject to subsequent imposition of liability, which shall be expressly established by law to the extent necessary to ensure: a. respect for the rights or reputations of others; or b. the protection of national security, public order, or public health or morals.

3. The right of expression may not be restricted by indirect methods or means, such as the abuse of government or private controls over newsprint, radio broadcasting frequencies, or equipment used in the dissemination of information, or by any other means tending to impede the communication and circulation of ideas and opinions.

4. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 2 above, public entertainments may be subject by law to prior censorship for the sole purpose of regulating access to them for the moral protection of childhood and adolescence.

5. Any propaganda for war and any advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitute incitements to lawless violence or to any other similar action against any person or group of persons on any grounds including those of race, color, religion, language, or national origin shall be considered as offenses punishable by law.


Ironically, the Honduran government ignores clear violations of number 5 above while going after someone with an opposing political opinion. Again, for anyone celebrating this attack on freedom of expression, please think about it. The next time it may be an attack on your freedom of expression or the people you agree with.

Related article: Honduras attacks freedom of expression

November 28, 2010

Wikileaks on Honduras

US Ambassador Hugo Llorens with Mel Zelaya
Photo: US Embassy

Wikileaks released a July 2009 communication from US Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens to the Secretary of State and others. There isn't much new, except that Llorens admits that Mel Zelaya probably committed illegal and unconstitutional acts and/or intended to, something that the official US position never did.


DE RUEHTG #0645/01 2050023
O 240023Z JUL 09




E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/23/2019


Classified By: Ambassador Hugo Llorens, reasons 1.4 (b and d)

1. (C) Summary: Post has attempted to clarify some of
the legal and constitutional issues surrounding the June 28
forced removal of President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya. The
Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the
military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired
on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and
unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch, while
accepting that there may be a prima facie case that Zelaya may
have committed illegalities and may have even violated the
constitution. There is equally no doubt from our perspective
that Roberto Micheletti's assumption of power was
illegitimate. Nevertheless, it is also evident that the
constitution itself may be deficient in terms of providing
clear procedures for dealing with alleged illegal acts by
the President and resolving conflicts between the branches
of government. End summary.

2. (U) Since the June 28 removal and expulsion of President
Zelaya by the Honduran armed forces, the Embassy has
consulted Honduran legal experts (one cannot find a fully
unbiased professional legal opinion in Honduras in the
current politically charged atmosphere) and reviewed the
text of the Honduran Constitution and its laws to develop a
better understanding of the arguments being parlayed by
the coup's supporters and opponents.

Read the rest of the (long) communication at .... if you can get in. The site was down most of the day today.

Thought: Is this a political act for which I can be punished?

November 27, 2010

Honduras attacks freedom of speech

Federico Álvarez Fernández
Photos: La Tribuna, Honduras

In the style of dictators and Hugo Chávez, dictator/president of Venezuela, the Honduran government of Porfirio Lobo is talking about expelling from the country a 34-year resident and retired businessman who is married to a Honduran and has raised his Honduran children and grandchildren here in Honduras.

Born in Costa Rica, Federico Álvarez Fernández has spent the majority of his adult life in Honduras. He arrived in 1977, when Honduras was still under a military regime, as the Costa Rican Ambassador to Honduras. He is a former president of the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (BCIE) in Honduras. He is active in the civic group Unión Cívica Democrática (UCD). His weekly opinion pieces on social, economic, and political developments are published in La Tribuna.

Álvarez has been a productive, contributing member of Honduran society for almost 34 years, serving for five years as Representative of the Interamerican Development Bank (BID in Spanish) in Honduras. He left BID rather than being transferred to Mexico because he had decided that Honduras was his home. He later became CEO of various Honduran banks until he retired and now serves on the Board of Directors of Banco Lafise.

Álvarez has been decorated by two Honduran presidents. He received the prestigious Francisco Morazán en el Grado de Gran Cruz Placa de Plata (the country's highest award) for his contribution to the democratization of Honduras from Roberto Suazo Córdova (1982-86), the country's first democratically elected president. He received the José Cecilio del Valle award from President Rafael Leonardo Callejas (1990-94) for his "outstanding" contribution to the economic development of Honduras. He was granted an honorary citizenship by the National Congress in December, 2009, for extraordinary service to Honduras. To understand what that meant to him, please read his article Hondureño (in Spanish).

Álvarez is a prolific writer and has written and distributed many thoughtful essays regarding the political crisis and the pressures that have been placed on Honduras to violate its constitution and laws by outside forces, including the Organization of American States.

However, Federico Álvarez also has been critical of President Lobo's handling of many matters. His focus is on adhering to the rule of law and the constitution, believing that is the way for Honduras to advance, not by bowing to political pressures.

This isn't the first time that Sr. Álvarez has been threatened by the Lobo administration. In June 2010, he was warned that Lobo had assigned a high level government official with the task of discrediting his reputation and that of Fernando Anduray, another critic of the Lobo administration. Anduray has a high level job in the government, but his wife was fired as Director of PANI, which she claimed was political retaliation for her husband's outspoken opinions.

After receiving honorary citizenship in December 2009, Álvarez decided that he wanted to become a naturalized citizen and submitted his application. On January 25, 2010, the Ministry of the Interior approved his request and extended to him the "Carta de Ciudadanía". He only learned of the supposed paperwork problems after being informed that the current Minister of the Interior Áfrico Madrid had declared on the Esdras Amado López television show on Channel 36 that he was going to cancel Álvarez's citizenship because of "missing" documents in his file.

Áfrico Madrid (remember him, the witch-hunter?) stated that Álvarez' paperwork was not in order and for that reason, "he could be invited to leave the country in the next days" — echos of Venezuela, where paperwork problems are the frequently named cause of hundreds of expropriated businesses and closed media outlets.

Madrid said that Álvarez failed to submit a "authenticated" birth certificate or a police record from Costa Rica. Since Álvarez has lived in Honduras for 34 years, perhaps a Honduran police record (or lack thereof) would suffice? It seems clear that the government was on a witch hunt, looking for something with which to intimidate Álvarez into not writing. Madrid stated clearly, "From now on, he is prohibited from participation in political activities that contravene the stability of the Honduran state".

Álvarez told me that he had been warned by friends for months that he should tone down his opinions because they were "causing discomfort to President Lobo". He has talked to several lawyers and all agree that this recent action is a gross violation of the law. However, he has not been able to defend himself because the Government has not given him written notice of their decision. He believes that it is clear that he may be able to recoup his nationality, but fears that the Government will keep trying to silence his voice by other methods.

Article 32 of the constitution of Honduras states that foreigners are not allowed to carry out (desarrollar) political activities. What is the legal definition of 'political activities' or will that change with each president? For that matter, what is the definition of 'desarrollar'? Is expressing a dissenting opinion a political activity? Is being a member of a civic group a political activity?

Unlike other foreigners who have been tolerated to enter and stay in Honduras during the past two years for purely political reasons to encourage protests, violence, and anarchy and to train, fund, and even arm radical groups in an effort to disrupt the country, Federico Álvarez is a man with deep ties to Honduras who exercises his freedom of speech to share his opinions. While the government ignores the former groups to appease the political "human rights" groups, a decent man with 34 years residency in Honduras is being intimidated and threatened with expulsion merely because he disagrees with the president.

But perhaps the message is not only for Sr. Álvarez. Perhaps the message is to the media in general. Is Honduras going to become a place where freedom of speech is discouraged, where open debate is prohibited, where politicians' actions cannot be questioned, where citizens and residents cannot express their displeasure with direction of the government without fear of retaliation?

That may be the intent, but it will backfire on the Lobo administration. They have the power to turn a writer into a martyr. Anyone anywhere in the world can and does write about Honduras whether they know anything about it or not. La Tribuna publishes opinion pieces from any writer of interest. There is no requirement to be a Honduran resident or citizen. Obviously, Álvarez can submit his articles from anywhere in the world. He will become a celebrity if he is expelled from Honduras which will likely widen his audience even more.

This is serious. Most of the foreign residents that I know are already intimidated from speaking their opinions publicly (many have told me so) for fear of government interference in or retaliation to their businesses, NGO's, or charity groups. Most Honduran bloggers outside of the resistance do not write about political matters. How many more citizens will think twice before expressing an opinion now? Honduras needs more citizen participation, not less.

For those in the resistance media and blogs who are celebrating this blow to Federico Álvarez, you shouldn't be. If the Lobo administration can witch hunt for 'paperwork errors' for one person, they can do it for you, too. And, if not this administration, maybe the next administration will. Any attack on freedom of expression is an attack on all freedom of expression. Those of you claiming political persecution to the world should know that better than anyone.

Who is next? Housewives who blog about the news and give their opinions about the political situation in Honduras? It wouldn't surprise me, because once you take that slippery slope, it is easy to push further and further like Hugo Chávez.

Just don't do it, President Lobo. It will tarnish your reputation all over the world where freedom of speech is valued and give credence to the many false claims of political persecution that have been made.

Related articles in Spanish:

Honduras Libre y en Democracía blog: Persecución Política
La Tribuna: Secretaría del Interior suspende naturalización a Federico Álvarez
La Tribuna: He cumplido con todos los requisitos exigidos por la ley
La Prensa: Áfrico Madrid: Federico Álvarez no es hondureño
La Tribuna: Áfrico Madrid: “No se le ha quitado nacionalidad porque nunca él fue juramentado” (In this latest article, Madrid seems to be backtracking, saying that Álvarez would revert to his former resident status rather than being expelled from the country.)

You can also read Federico Álvarez's opinion columns and judge for yourself whether he is a radical or in any way tries to destabilize Honduras.
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