The Fog of Honduras

The essay below came in last night. Since I have avoided dealing with the situation in Honduras, this email was propitious because its author, Middle Aged Joe, has some of the same fears about his own ignorance regarding the situation in Central and South America.

Our mutual ignorance of Spanish limits us to depending on secondary sources. I have found Fausta to be a wealth of information. Her blog is one of the definitive sources for this region. Her fluent Spanish, her many contacts, her investigations of Chavez, et al, have been a real help in understanding South America.

Middle Aged Joe’s hesitations resonated with my own. We’re in the same boat, Joe and me. We fear for the Hondurans in the coming months while we wonder what the heck is really going on.

What I find interesting is that opinion seems to be coalescing along conservative/liberal lines.

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This is going to sound like I am some type of shill, but I swear I am real.

I am an average American, middle class, middle-aged, living in Virginia. Economic times being what they are I no longer have cable TV. Thus up until last week, I was completely ignorant about the politics of Honduras. Now however, I am just woefully ignorant and playing catch-up.

I have been trying to follow what has happened in Honduras. Former President Zelaya (and the rest of the world), has said there was an illegal coup, and his removal was an illegal seizure of power by the military, and apparently their Congress and Supreme Court.

The political organs that removed him from office have cited Constitutional violations committed by Zelaya, among them Article 239: “No citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.”

This is a very sensible law considering the history of Honduras and the region.

Zelaya had been bucking for a national poll on whether or not the term limits of the President should be extended. He had received no support for this “opinion” poll from any governmental agency. The Elections board refused to have any part of it.

Zelaya outsourced the printing of the ballots to (drum roll) Venezuela; I’m sure they did a great job. That is when the Honduran Supreme Court got involved, ordering the confiscation of the “opinion” ballots. But Zelaya knew where the ballots were being stored and attempted to retrieve them and hold the poll in spite of the Court’s ruling.

Notice that the day the of the coup d’état was the same day the poll was scheduled to be conducted.

Regrettably, the part about the process of removing a sitting President has been removed from the Honduran Constitution. This is why the Supreme Court ordered the military to arrest him. The second option was to resign and leave the country, so he wouldn’t be humiliated during the government’s investigation of his corruption. Zelaya chose option one.

As for Zelaya’s defense regarding the matter (because I think finding corruption in politicians in Honduras is the equivalent of find a pulse): the vote was merely an “opinion” poll, not a referendum, and therefore not illegal. I was swayed by this. It is a fine line, but maybe he was trying to push the edge.

As an outsider, it is difficult to know who is telling the truth. Then I came across the following CNN report:

Of note in this video is the question about Zelaya’s family and their safety during the coup. It starts at 2:40 and continues until 3:07.

The reporter, Karl Penhaul, who directly interviewed Zelaya post-removal says Zelaya was not with his family at the time of the coup, that:

“..he [Zelaya] was alone in the Presidential palace planning for today’s referendum which was aimed at extending his four year mandate.”

I have some questions about this video:
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  • Is the reporter demonstrating Zelaya’s clear violation of Article 239?
  • Or is this the case of a reporter embellishing a story?
  • Is there raw footage of Penhaul or CNN Spanish’s interview of Zelaya?
  • In these interviews, has Zelaya admitted violating Article 239?
  • Can Penhaul be re-interviewed and asked about these questions?
  • Is he now a material witness if Zelaya goes to trial?
  • Would the Supreme Court of Honduras include this as additional evidence or are they satisfied with their decision?

I am not in favor of the current government in Honduras, though I don’t know enough to make a definite decision here. But I do know when the wool is being pulled over my eyes.

I do not support the return of Zelaya. There are only limited mechanisms to try him and it will only end in a bloodbath.

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In a follow up email, Middle Aged Joe referred me to the Christian Science Monitor’s page on Honduras. But before dealing with that, look at a CSM editorial from July 2nd, by Octavio Sánchez. He has served in several capacities for the Republic of Honduras.

Here is a snip from A ‘coup’ in Honduras? Nonsense:

Sometimes, the whole world prefers a lie to the truth. The White House, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and much of the media have condemned the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya this past weekend as a coup d’état.

That is nonsense.

In fact, what happened here is nothing short of the triumph of the rule of law.

To understand recent events, you have to know a bit about Honduras’s constitutional history. In 1982, my country adopted a new Constitution that enabled our orderly return to democracy after years of military rule. After more than a dozen previous constitutions, the current Constitution, at 27 years old, has endured the longest.

It has endured because it responds and adapts to changing political conditions: Of its original 379 articles, seven have been completely or partially repealed, 18 have been interpreted, and 121 have been reformed.


During these 27 years, Honduras has dealt with its problems within the rule of law. Every successful democratic country has lived through similar periods of trial and error until they were able to forge legal frameworks that adapt to their reality. France crafted more than a dozen constitutions between 1789 and the adoption of the current one in 1958. The US Constitution has been amended 27 times since 1789. And the British – pragmatic as they are – in 900 years have made so many changes that they have never bothered to compile their Constitution into a single body of law.

Under our Constitution, what happened in Honduras this past Sunday? Soldiers arrested and sent out of the country a Honduran citizen who, the day before, through his own actions had stripped himself of the presidency.


The page Middle Aged Joe cited has a long essay exploring the situation in Honduras. The author notes the problems with publicly disavowing Zelaya:

In fact, it is the shadow of Mr. Chávez that scared so many here. Fear – real or perceived – of Venezuelan airplanes full of arms landing in the country, of guerillas coming from El Salvador and Nicaragua, and even the coming of communism is whispered about in any conversation with those who say Zelaya’s ouster is justified.

And so, while the international community condemns a coup, many Hondurans say his ouster, although perhaps not entirely legal, was the better of two evils. After all, Zelaya was breaking the law by pushing for a nonbinding referendum to survey voters on their support to call a constituent assembly. Many say that was the first step toward dissolving term limits for presidents. “If he had not been kicked out, we would have had Al Capone as president indefinitely,” says Jesus Simon, an engineer attending a recent protest march against Zelaya.

This analysis also quotes the Cardinal:

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez appeared on state television imploring Zelaya to stay abroad. Daily protests have grown in size in the capital, and while most Hondurans say they want peace, tensions are running high. Leading to the presidential palace, fast-food chain restaurants have been shattered, their walls splashed with graffiti calling Micheletti a fascist and coup leader. “We think that a return to the country at the moment could provoke a bloodbath,” Cardinal Rodriguez said.

So Joe is aligned with the Cardinal and with Mr. Sanchez…

And I agree with them, especially with Mr. Sanchez. When the legislature, made up of members of your own party, the Supreme Court and the military want a leader to evacuate the premises, then Zelaya needs a watch and a suitcase because it is definitely time to go and stay gone. He even has the Cardinal’s blessing to follow this course of action.

Let Hondurans abide by their own constitution, even if we fail to follow ours.

If you haven’t seen Honduras Abandoned, I recommend reading this citizen journalist. You have to admire someone who picks up his camera and passport and simply flies to Honduras to see for himself. The subtitle to his blog is Joe’s question: Military Coup or Democratic Procedure? An exploration of the removal of President Manuel Zelaya.

He landed the other day and will be in the country until the 17th of July. Thus he is also an average Joe With a Job, who decided to use his vacation for something useful. Today he notes the presence of Code Pink in Honduras. Victim Time!

Thank God the Baron doesn’t speak Spanish and doesn’t have the wherewithal to go flying right now. It’s bad enough when he visits those Jamaat ul Fuqra places and I fret until he gets home.

7 thoughts on “The Fog of Honduras

  1. I understand its all kinda messy. Zelaya is a wannabe revolutionary socialist playing footsie with Chavez, yet the opposition apparently are the old money class intent on keeping a foot firmly on the working peasants neck (in an exceedingly poor country). Therefore neither party is particularly attractive.

    I wonder which side the socialist oriented but big business backed Obama administration will favor?

  2. Dymphna said: “Thank God the Baron doesn’t speak Spanish and doesn’t have the wherewithal to go flying right now. It’s bad enough when he visits those Jamaat ul Fuqra places and I fret until he gets home.”

    Any time he needs a bodyguard, let me know.

  3. Fellow Peacekeeper…

    You raise an interesting question. Given that Obama has been playing footsie with Chavez, et al, it’s hard to know what’s *really* going on.

    I have read that Zelaya is heavily into narco-corruption. And the fact that the Cardinal came out against him says that the upper class doesn’t like him. I haven’t looked into the bona fides of this Cardinal, though, so I don’t know what to make of where he stands.

    We’ve heard loud and clear from Obie Wan Kenobi, but not a peep out of State as far as I can see.

    I do know that lots of work went on behind the scenes to head this off. The world govts were not taken by surprise. However, it may be that Zelaya brought about his own downfall because he wanted to be another ruler for life…like Castro.

    It’s a fog. We won’t know the truth for a long time. That’s why I liked Middle Aged Joe’s questions and ponderings…

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