By Emile Schepers
1. A COUP, YES, BUT A MILITARY COUP? WE’RE STUDYING IT. In a phone press conference yesterday, unnamed senior State Department officials responded to questions from the international media on the Obama administration’s attitude toward the latest events in Honduras. Although they repeated the statement that they consider Manuel Zelaya to be the legitimate president of Honduras, and their support for the mediation process of Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, they did not have details to share on what further sanctions may happen, their evaluation of the projected impact of the suspension of the granting of new non-tourist visas. Nor were they ready to say yeah or nay to the idea that has been picked up by most of the Latin American countries to declare that the United States will not recognize the government elected on November 29 if the Micheletti crowd doesn’t give in and accept the San Jose accords. However, they did make an interesting distinction among coups. Evidently (or according to these State Dept. officials) U.S. law makes a differentiation between coups (illegal and unconstitutional seizures of power) and military coups (illegal and unconstitutional seizures of power by the armed forces). According to these representatives, they are studying whether the Honduras coup is a military coup or just a coup. If it is the latter, certain sanctions on trade and aid have to kick in, beyond the $35 million or so that has already been cut off. And also, they told the press that the rules of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (which also includes the Dominican Republic, so it’s now CAFTA-DR) would mean that if trade to one country is cut off it has to be cut off to others also. Could someone check this please? I also hope that whoever is studying up on this coup-military coup question looks at the way the army and police have behaved since the coup, and does not become bedazzled by the legalistic claptrap invented by the coupsters. When the army and police take over the administration of village governments, of hospitals and other institutions, and when they repress dissent, rape women with impunity and shut down freedom of the press, it looks to me very much like a military coup, even if it is dressed up in the fiction of “constitutional succession”.
2. FERNANDEZ SAYS HONDURAS SHOULD BE SUSPENDED FROM CAFTA-DR. And no sooner were the words out of the State Department chaps’ mouths than someone came up with a solution for the CAFTA-DR issue. That someone is Leonel Fernandez, President of the Dominican Republic. Fernandez was originally elected from the left, but during his time in power has not budged from the Washington Consensus of neo-liberal policies. Nevertheless, the Dominican Republic has had a very tragic history with military coups and governments, so even this rather conservative person is disturbed by the idea of letting Micheletti and his merry men get away with this stuff. So his proposal is that Honduras be officially suspended from CAFTA-DR. This would seem to clear up the problem raised by the State Department officials in the previous item, no? There is as yet no reaction from leaders of other governments, so stay tuned.
3. COSTA RICAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS ARIAS PLAN IS STILL ALIVE. In spite of the defiant response of coup de facto president Micheletti when he met with the OAS foreign ministers yesterday, Costa Rica’s foreign minister Bruno Stagno, who was in the Tegucigalpa meetings, considers that the Arias mediation and the San Jose Plan is not dead. He told the press that the Micheletti crowd keeps claiming that there was no coup but rather a constitutional succession. Stagno said (my translation) “This interpretation is not and will not be endorsed by the international community. The commission of foreign ministers repeated that what happened was a coup d’état. There are inconsistencies in their story, above all having to do with the violation of article 102 of the Honduran constitution to the effect that nobody can be either extradited or exiled from Honduras”.
4. WE ARE 60 DAYS INTO THE COUP, AND THE RESISTANCE CONTINUES. The National Front Against the Coup, which includes labor, religious, ethnic, women’s and other organizations which oppose the coup and call for the restoration of President Zelaya, says there will be no letup in protests. There is a difference between the positions of President Zelaya and the resistance groups, in the sense that they do not want to abandon the idea of a “fourth ballot box” (urna) in the November 29 elections, and they oppose amnesty for coup supporters who have committed crimes against the people, both of which are concessions in the San Jose accords which Zelaya has accepted. In normal elections in Honduras, the “first ballot box” is for the presidency, the second is for the members of the unicameral Congress, and the third is for local offices. The “fourth ballot box” would be the one in which Hondurans vote if they want to have a democratically elected constituent assembly which would work to revise the ramshackle 1982 convention. Al Giordano, who posts excellent articles on the Honduras struggle on the website of the Narco News Bulletin and is interviewed there this week says that it is evident that if the June 28 non-binding referendum had taken place, the “yes” votes would have won. This would have put pressure on the Congress to authorize this “fourth ballot box”. Then it would have given poor Honduran workers and farmers and their families an unprecedented motivation to turn out in mass for the November 29 election. Usually most poor Hondurans don’t vote, but if there were this fourth ballot box, it would have greatly encouraged participation by the poor and perhaps changed the outcome of the election in more ways than one. This is what the oligarchy was afraid of, because it was this kind of mass dynamics that made the election of progressive governments possible in recent years in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and other places. Read the whole interview with Giordano at http://www.narconews.com
That’s all for now, let’s see what the morrow brings.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
By Emile Schepers