Friday, October 23, 2009

The Carter Center Position on the Honduran Crisis..A MUST READ

Can you explain briefly the constitutional crisis and military ouster of the Honduran president on June 28?




The military removed President Zelaya at gunpoint and exiled him to Costa Rica on the basis of a Supreme Court order after Zelaya had ignored judicial rulings, declaring an intended popular consultation on June 28 to be illegal. This was simply the catalyst for a long-brewing confrontation between the branches of government in Honduras and a growing polarization in the society. Honduras is a poverty-stricken, traditional society run by two political parties and a dominant class since its return to democracy in 1980. Zelaya, a large landowner from one of those two parties, was elected president in 2006 on a conservative platform promising economic growth and reduced violence and crime. He began to introduce pro-poor reforms and other policies that ran into resistance within the Congress and business class, his nominations for Supreme Court and other positions were not approved by the Congress, and he eventually turned to Venezuela for more unconditional aid and discounted oil. His growing closeness with Chávez alarmed many in the middle and upper classes of Honduras, while his talk of anti-imperialism, constitutional change, and significant rise in the minimum wage energized workers and the rural poor.
The only thing really incorrect here is that he really didn´t introduce any reforms for the pooer except the minimum wage which in fact hurt the poor because it resulted in 60% of them losing their jobs. The rest is essentially accurate even recognizing that there was an arrest warrant that the military had which is why he was taken at gun point...most arrest warrants are exercised with a gun.


He proposed constitutional change in late 2008 but failed to get congressional approval for a referendum asking the population whether they would approve a constituent assembly to reform the constitution. In March 2009, the president decreed that the National Statistical Institute should carry out a non-binding "survey" (consultation at ballot boxes) to determine if the voters would like to include a referendum to approve a constituent assembly, with the national elections already scheduled for November 2009. This was the so-called fourth ballot box, adding to the votes for president, Congress, and local officials.

This is essentially spot on...and reveals that he was trying to do it even though Congress said no.  He went to Congress they nixed his idea and he decided he was going to do it anyway even though both Congress and the Supreme Court said NO.

The Supreme Court, the Congress, and the National Electoral Tribunal all declared such a survey or popular consultation illegal, since it was not approved by Congress. The president ordered the military to support the consultation anyway (the military traditionally provides logistical assistance for elections). When eventually the military refused to go against the Supreme Court, the president dismissed the chief of the Armed Forces and the Supreme Court reinstated him and ordered him to confiscate the ballot materials (allegedly provided by Venezuela)(Nothing alleged about it...a Venezuelan plane arrived with ballots and computers.) The president went with a crowd to military barracks to reclaim the ballots and vowed to continue with the June 28 "survey." According to official reports after the fact, on June 26 the Supreme Court issued a secret order to the military to detain the president. The military entered his home the morning of June 28, and apparently decided on their own to exile him rather than imprison him in Honduras on the grounds that the latter would provoke popular unrest. The national Congress then unanimously approved the removal of Zelaya and elected the head of the Congress, Roberto Micheletti, as president to fulfill the term to January 2010.
This is correct as well except that it overlooks that all arrest warrants are secret until they are executed here.  Even the name of the person is secret until it is executed.


What did the international community do to help resolve the situation?

The Zelaya government requested support from the Organization of American States (OAS) in the week before June 28 to avert a democratic crisis, and the OAS resolved on June 26 to send an urgent mission. (If I am not mistaken this is actually incorrect they were sending observers for the supposed referendum not to avert any crisis)Before the mission arrived, however, the coup occurred on June 28.(It wasn´t a coup if the Court and the Congress acted within the law and they did, the coup was the one that Zelaya was attempting and was averted) That afternoon, an emergency session of the OAS Permanent Council declared the coup to be an "alteration of the constitutional order," invoked the Inter-American Democratic Charter to unanimously condemn the coup, and called for the reinstatement of President Zelaya. The resolution also called for the OAS secretary general to consult with regional leaders gathered in Nicaragua but did not instruct him to travel to Honduras for fact-finding or negotiations. (that is where the problem is they didn´t come to do any fact finding or negotiating they came to make demands for something they didn´t know the facts on)An emergency session of the hemisphere's foreign ministers (OAS General Assembly) met on June 30 and gave a 72-hour deadline for Honduras to reinstate Zelaya; it also instructed the secretary general to undertake diplomatic initiatives to restore constitutional order. Secretary General Insulza traveled to Honduras the afternoon of July 3, twelve hours before the deadline was to expire, but made no progress, hamstrung by not being able to meet with the installed government for fear of legitimating them. The following day, the OAS suspended Honduras from its membership, implying also the suspension of international loans, and many countries recalled their ambassadors. Here the essense of what caused the crisis is given...the international community caused the mess)


Three Latin American presidents and the Secretaries General of the OAS and the U.N. General Assembly accompanied Zelaya as he attempted to return to Honduras on July 5 in a high-stakes gamble to motivate his supporters to turn out en masse and force acceptance of his return, but his plane was not allowed to land. Two days later Zelaya met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, who announced that Costa Rican President Oscar Arias had agreed to mediate the situation. The sitting president, Roberto Micheletti, and President Zelaya both traveled to Costa Rica to meet with Arias on July 9 but refused to meet together. Commissions from both countries continue to meet with Arias looking for a solution.
This was a huge mistake and probably broke international laws.  They involved themselves in an internal matter and a death of a young man in the chaos was the result.


How can the situation be resolved?



The international community hoped that universal condemnation of the coup and threats of economic sanctions would force the interim government to back down. The Micheletti government, however, insisted that Zelaya's removal was a defense of the constitution, that the military was simply carrying out Supreme Court orders to remove a president who had broken the law, and that if Zelaya returned to the country he would be arrested on charges of treason and attempting to change the form of government.



The conflict involves a constitutional crisis in that both sides have drawn on the constitution to support their arguments, and the constitution itself has multiple, sometimes conflicting, articles on constitutional change. It allows for popular referenda to modify the constitution, but the referenda must first be approved by Congress. It also allows the Congress to modify the constitution directly. The constitution specifies seven provisions that can never be changed, however, including the form of government, the term of president, and the prohibition on presidential reelection, and it says that anyone who tries to change these articles should immediately lose their official position and will lose their citizenship if sentenced in a court of law.
Amazing a lefty who actually read our constitution...and learned what it said and what it means.


It is unclear whether a constituent assembly could write a wholly new constitution that could change these provisions. Opponents to Zelaya assumed that he wanted to allow reelection to perpetuate himself in power, though this was never presented as a referendum question. Some of the accusations against Zelaya appear to be based on this presumption that he seeks to change the "set-in-stone" constitutional provisions and fears of how he could manipulate the rules to maintain himself in power after January 2010.
The reason for this is because of the direction of other ALBA countries so it is without a doubt that was his goal..plus statements he himself made during the process.  Not only that had he wanted to change other provisions he would have stated as much his silence condemned him.  Furthermore, if he had constitutional resolutions he wanted to make he could have went to Congress.  Under no circumstance is the President allowed to present this or even a referendum to the public..that is Congress´job and for the President to do this violates the seperation of powers.


The conflict also involves a deeply polarized society in which some sectors (mostly upper and middle classes) feared that President Zelaya was moving the country toward a Venezuela-style socialist revolution and concentration of power in the president, and other sectors (mostly workers and rural poor) saw him as the person to address the 60 percent poverty rate and highly unequal society.



Given two entrenched positions, with apparently illegal actions by all sides (the forced exile of the president without due process; the president's defiance of the Congress and Supreme Court), this is not an easy conflict to solve. If either side forces the issue, the inflamed passions of the citizens who support and who oppose Zelaya can easily erupt into violence. One death has already occurred. A negotiated solution is therefore imperative.



Three scenarios appear possible:



a) The installed government continues to resist Zelaya's return and endures international isolation and sanctions for six months until a new government is elected and inaugurated. The installed government "wins," but at the cost of painful economic losses, increased polarization, and risk of violence and loss of life.(hallelujah someone recognizes that the elections would end it essentially at least Carter never suggests the unthinkable of not recognizing the desire of the people via the electoral ballot.)



b) Zelaya is successfully reinstated with international assistance and "punishes" the coupsters. This is unlikely in that it would involve force if there is no negotiated mechanism for his return. However, if the installed government were to back down in the face of international pressure, this would constitute a "win" for Zelaya and the international principle against military coups, but at the potential cost of a president without support from any national institution, and increased polarization in the country, with risk of violence and loss of life.
Not going to happen even the UN nixed that idea..and believe me Zelaya presented the use of force to both the US and the UN as well as the OAS all of them said NO!


c) A negotiated solution involving no obvious winner, involving one of a number of scenarios, possibly with amnesties for all involved, perhaps the reinstatement of Zelaya followed by his immediate resignation in favor of a care-taker government to manage elections, or his reinstatement with commitment to forego any attempts for constitutional change and international monitoring of compliance with all commitments made in the negotiated resolution.

No reinstatement this violates the constitution...sheesh folks the Supreme Court already ruled on this...I could go for the reinstatement followed by immediate resignation except that I do not trust Zelaya as far as I can throw him...I also don´t mind the political errors to be amnestied but I am AGAINST criminal errors being forgiven...if a poor person steals a chicken because they are hungry they go to jail for years...and he should get amnesty when he stole millions?  What are the guarantees he isn´t going to change his mind immediately when he is reinstated about resigning? Make him sign a resignation letter FIRST before he is reinstated or better yet make him resign as well as Micheletti this was already proposed and as much as I like Micheletti I can deal with an interim goverment that works toward the elections and is made up of different groups.  Though we would be at a much different stage in this game had Carter been the negotiator instead of Arias..I can see the error of our ways now and Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 and he is a peanut farmer from Georgia...ARGGG!


How is The Carter Center involved?



The Carter Center is the secretariat for the Friends of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, a group of former presidents, ministers, and jurists who are committed to the principle of the Charter and work to encourage the OAS to more effectively and constructively implement the Charter, and to assist countries undergoing democratic crises. The Friends issued a statement on June 30 condemning the coup but also encouraging the OAS to initiate a political dialogue in Honduras to resolve the inter-branch conflict, recognizing the constitutional crisis underlying the coup.


What does the situation in Honduras tell us about the state of democracy in the hemisphere?



Although this looked like a classical military coup, it wasn't in that the military did not attempt to stay in power after ousting the president, and they claimed they acted on orders from the Supreme Court. (they did act on order of the Supreme Court the arrest warrant is available for all to see.)The last classical military coup was 1991 when the Haitian military overthrew Aristide and stayed in power three years. Since then, military officers joined with popular protests to remove Ecuadoran President Mahuad in 2000 and replace him with the vice president, and the military high command removed Venezuelan President Chavez in 2002 after massive protests and violence, replacing him with a businessman (though this was reversed 48 hours later). The Honduran coup is thus part of a pattern over the last decade of presidents being forced to resign early from pressure by combinations of different actors – military (or parts of it), Congress, and popular protests (Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay, and Haiti are some examples).



Honduras also illustrates a recurring pattern of disputes between different branches of government, sometimes caused by presidents overreaching or abusing their powers and sometimes by Congress attempting questionable impeachments. Generally, the international community has a hard time addressing this kind of democratic threat and is reluctant to intervene or offer assistance early enough to prevent a constitutional crisis of the type that erupted in Honduras. The one success story for the OAS in this kind of crisis occurred in Nicaragua in 2005 when the government actually requested assistance under the Inter-American Democratic Charter in the face of impeachment threats and questionable constitutional reforms. The OAS mediated a resolution of that constitutional crisis.

The good news is that the entire hemisphere united for the first time to roundly reject the idea that the military could remove an elected official by force no matter what the offence. Instead, judicial proceedings or congressional impeachment, with due process, must be used to pursue allegations of abuse of power. The U.S. condemnation of the coup also mooted criticisms from Venezuela, Bolivia, and Honduras of U.S. conspiracies against leftist forces in Latin America going back to the Bush era. The Obama Administration demonstrated its commitment to defend democratic principles no matter what the ideology or political alliances of the threatened government. Here Carter is comletely wrong..Obama called it a military coup and he didn´t recongize the crimes of Zelaya and he sided with communists like Fidel and tyrants like Chavez that have no clue what democracy is.

The challenge now is for the hemisphere to learn to use the Democratic Charter to also defend democratic principles when they are threatened by non-military actors, whether that is a president abusing power, a court or legislature threatening a president, or social actors inciting violence or unconstitutional acts.
Doing this would prevent idiots like Zelaya from becoming tyrants and would have jailed Chavez long ago.

Overall I think that Carter gets it right in his leftist kind of way except when he tries to meekishly defend the Obama stance when Obama didn´t bother to find out the facts and that was clear. Even Carter recognizes that this was not a military coup as Obama tried to claim...yes, the military was used..the military is trusted more here than the police who can be bought for 200 lempiras...can you imagine now what that 300,000 dollars was doing in his desk drawer? He planned on bribing folks that tried to arrest him...it didn´t work with the military.

The elections will solve this and everyone in the international community needs to keep their pickers off of it...and let Honduras solve this.  It is an internal conflict and not an international one. The elections need to be recongized and observed by the International community so that another electoral fraud is not committed by another presidential candidate trying to subvert the will of the people.  Zelaya admitted he committed electoral fraud, Cesar Ham admitted that Zelaya committed electoral fraud...their excuse? Everybody does it...

I have been really unhappy with Pepe Lobo lately and his silence in this mess but I was really happy about his suggestion that in his government EVERYONE right down to the trash worker will have to sign an ethics contract and anyone who violates it will be prosecuted to the full letter of the law.  I can really dig that.