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!!
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