Wednesday, July 22, 2009

WTF, Honduran style.....

I just dont get it.

Im America: we have presidential term limits. They were a bipartisian response to FDR. 2 terms is all you can get, even though there are still some politicians that would seek to destroy this important 22 amendment.

So, imagine if W Bush or Obama in 2011 propose having a 'referendum' ( meaning a vote that could be easily messed with )that could mean they could run forever and possibly win. Can you imagine the outcry? Hell, even Washington and Jefferson ( those evil white slave owners )knew better :"if some termination to the services of the chief Magistrate be not fixed by the Constitution, or supplied by practice, his office, nominally four years, will in fact become for life."

Can we all agree that it's well and good for presidential term limits? It is a bulwark against tyranny.

Well, from what I gather after chatting with my buddy who lives down there in Uraguay, something really wierd is going on.

First, the Honduran 'el presidente' Zelaya proposes a 'referendum' asking the voters if they should change thier Constitution, even though it says right in there that any attempt to do so is a violation of thier laws, and the 'dictator in waiting' ( I.E. Hugo Chaves, anyone? )must be immediately removed from office. But, he plows ahead with tacit approval from Castro, Chavez, and the OAS: proposes the election, which starts a firestorm of debate that goes all the way to thier Supreme Court ( dangling Ocho Stinko's?). Then, the Supreme Court says, 'no way,Jose'.

Enter the villian,and the new Micheletti’s government which gets the guy in the dark of night and transports him physically on a jet chartered by Citgo ( hmmm )to Costa Rica and installs a new POH. Now, I admit, this sounds alittle harsh. They should have made him step down and impeach him, but that's just not how it works down there. At least he didn't get the usual treatment, which maybe JFK could help 'splain

Mr. Zelaya was ousted for trying to rewrite the presidential term limits clause, and even considering that option can be considered treasonous in Honduras. Zelaya has a lot in common with Chavez and his buddies: Bolivia’s Evo Morales won a referendum allowing him to overturn a ban on re-election; Ecuador’s Rafael Correa unconstitutionally changed the constitution and overrode the term limit stipulations; and Chavez, under tremendous protests from the people of Venezuela changed the country’s constitution and says he will stay in office until “2019, 2021 or 2030.” We know the story in Cuba. And in Nicaragua, the American-hating Sandinista Marxist thug Daniel Ortega told Sir David Frost in a March 2009 interview that he would like to change the constitution to allow him to run again for president.

Central and South American dictators have a long history, and since the people of any country do not want to be “ruled,” rather than governed, “dictators” are not popular. You can’t run for office as a dictator and get elected. So it’s all about deceiving the people. In the case of Manuel Zelaya, he was elected as a “centrist” four years ago, and has moved rapidly to the Left. Zelaya took an out-sized stetson hat and cowboy boots as his signature apparel, and grinned and waved his way to the Left and a fast friendship with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. In an attempt to appease the poor, of which Honduras has plenty, Zelaya cut a deal with Chavez for cheap oil. Unless oil is cheap around the world, oil is not cheap, and of course there had to be a pay-back to Chavez for his generosity. Zelaya joined-in with Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua to participate in Chavez’ “regional trade and political pact.”

Outside of the Chavez pact members:

San Salvador just elected Maurico Funes of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN)- named for Farabundo Marti, the Communist leader and social activist. His election ended nearly 50-years of conservative control that fought against the FMLN movement seeking a Communist revolution. Funes wants good relations with the U.S., he vowed to restore relations with Cuba and is opening an embassy there. Standby to see how far Left San Salvador leans.

Uruguay’s ruling coalition party proposed reforming the Uruguayan constitution to allow an immediate reelection of the president, Tabare Vazquez. It didn’t happen and sources say it is not likely to happen as the constitution forbids it. Vazquez is considered a conservative.

South of the equator, history demonstrates that it hard to hold on to the very constitutional ideals designed to keep executive branches from becoming absolutists.

So, I checked out my friends blog, which is about an Ex Pat living in Uraguay, and here's what he posted just after the 'coup' happened:

Mel Zelaya was elected 3 ½ years ago with an underwhelming 49% of
the vote. He was seen as a fairly conservative member of the liberal party.
The general feeling when he was elected was that he wasn’t the greatest
pick, but his background as a wealthy logger and rancher coupled with his
more liberal social policies would probably be OK.

· Almost from day 1, Mel started shifting Honduras policies to the

o Remember when he tried to nationalize the oil industry – forcing all
fuel distributors to buy from 1 company so that Mel could control the price?
The US rightfully reminded Mel that the US oil companies had a lot invested
here and the confiscating of those assets would not be a good thing. Mel
changed his mind a couple of days later.

o Mel gave away the fishing rights to an area that Honduras has been
fishing for decades if not a hundred years. He gave those rights to
Nicaragua for nothing – or at least nothing that was ever publicly reported.
Mel forgot to mention this transaction to anyone in the country, let alone
the fisherman. Guess how the fishermen found out? The Nicaraguan Navy
confiscated several boats over a period of a few weeks. The crews on these
boats were detained from a few days to a few weeks. Some of the boats were
eventually returned to the rightful owners – after paying “fines”. Some of
the boats even had the electronics and gear still on board when they were
returned to the owners. The Honduran government did absolutely nothing to
repatriate these boats.

o Mel wanted Honduras to join ALBA – a collection of countries that was
formed by Cuba and Venezuela to counteract NAFTA/CAFTA from the US. When
this was announced, there was a lot of concern – especially from the
business community. I was in a meeting with the local congressman less than
a week before it was ratified. The message being sent was that this was just
a way to get cheap oil from Venezuela. The congress wouldn’t consider
ratifying this treaty for 6 or 8 months and by then Mel would have the oil
that he was after. Again, less than a week later Mel got the treaty was
ratified by the congress.

o Not too long ago, the minimum wage was raised from L. 3,500 per month to
L. 5,500. That’s about a 60% increase. I’m not saying that the minimum wage
didn’t need to be raised, but this huge increase was 3 times more than the
labor unions were requesting (20%) and 6 times more than the business
organizations had offered (10%). These increases caused tremendous layoffs
on the mainland. Many maquillas (garment factories) began to move to
Nicaragua because the cost of business in Honduras had gotten too high. This
was another huge drop in jobs. I’ve not seen the actual number of jobs lost
because of the 60% increase in minimum wage, but it was staggering.

o The Honduran constitution says that each year the President presents the
annual budget to congress for approval. If the approval is not obtained by a
specific date (I think it’s the end of January, but am not 100% sure) the
budget from last year will be used until the new budget is approved by

§ Mel never submitted a budget for 2009, hence the Congress can’t approve
it so Honduras is operating in 2009 on 2008’s budget.

§ Now, why would a President not submit a budget? Who knows for sure but
one of the possibilities is that 2009 is an election year. Mel would like to
stay in power past 2009. The budget in 2008 didn’t include an election, so
in essence there is NO money available for the 2009 election because we’re
operating on 2008’s budget. There are other theories about hiding graft and
corruption, but I would assume that anyone that becomes President in
Honduras wouldn’t be concerned about hiding corruption and theft in the
budget – he certainly didn’t mind doing it the previous 3 years!

· Somewhere along the way, Mel decided to take a lesson from his
mentor (Chavez) and arrange it so that he could remain in power for as long
as he wanted. There was a little problem with this. The Honduran
constitution, enacted in 1982, has 378 articles. 6 of these articles are
“cast in stone”, meaning that they can NOT be changed. These 6 articles deal
with defining the type of government, territory claims, and presidential
term limits. They are the basis of the Honduran democracy.

o One other tidbit from the constitution – Article 42, Section 5 says that
anyone who is found to “incite, promote, or aid in the continuation or
re-election of the President” would face loss of citizenship. Remember this
one later on in this saga.

· To further complicate things for Zelaya, ANY changes to the
constitution have to be initiated by the legislative branch. The congress
has to convene a constituent assembly. That’s basically a group of people
selected by the congress to analyze any proposed changes and form those
ideas into the new constitution. After the proposed changes are formulated,
the congress would approve them to be put to a national referendum. The
executive branch (the President) has nothing to do with that process.

· Mel didn’t think that the congress would go along with his ideas
of staying in power so he decided he’d call his own referendum. He doesn’t
have the authority to do that – remember that constitutional changes can
only be done by the legislature AND the term limits are one of the articles
cast in stone – but he goes ahead and calls one anyway.

· The Honduran Supreme Court says “Sorry Mel, you can’t do a
referendum. That’s not within your power as president”.

· Mel, or more probably one of his advisors, figures out that if a
referendum can’t be done, we could probably do a survey or a poll instead!
Great idea – nobody will figure out that the poll that we’re now going to do
is exactly the same thing as we were going to do with the referendum.

· Damn those people on the Supreme Court! They figured out the ruse!
They ruled unanimously that regardless of what you call it, if it acts like
a referendum the president can’t do it. If it looks like a duck, and walks
like a duck, and quacks like a duck . . . .

· Mel continues to talk of doing the poll on June 28 regardless of
the Supreme Court

· The Congress looks at the poll that Mel wants to do and gives an
opinion that the poll would be illegal and they will not support it.
Remember that Mel’s own political party is in control of the congress.

· The Attorney General also analyzes the poll and determines that it
is illegal. Over the course of the weeks leading to June 28, the AG
reiterates many times that the poll is illegal and anyone participating in
the poll would be committing a crime and could be arrested.

· Mel runs into another logistical snafu. He needs some ballots
printed. The entire political structure of Honduras (except him) has ruled
that the poll is illegal. It’s a pretty sure bet that he can’t get the
government to print the ballots for an illegal referendum so he asks his
buddy Hugo Chavez to print the ballots. Of course Hugo says “No Problem

· The rhetoric in the 2 weeks before the “poll” gets tense. Every
legal opinion in Honduras says that the poll is illegal. The Supreme Court
reaffirms its ruling that the poll is illegal. The Attorney General keeps
saying that the poll is illegal and that anyone participating is committing
a crime. Mel’s own political party says that the poll is illegal. There
literally is not one legitimate group in the country that is siding with Mel
about the poll.

· Traditionally the military handles the distribution of the ballots
and voting materials. The head of the military, Romeo Vasquez Velasquez says
that the military will not participate in the poll because the Supreme Court
is the entity that determines what is legal and what is illegal in Honduras.
The Supreme Court has determined that the poll is illegal, so the military
will not participate.

· Mel Zelaya promptly fired Romeo Vasquez. The other heads of
military (Navy and Air Force) as well as the Minister of Defense resigned in
support of Vasquez.

· The next day the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Vasquez was
fired without reason and demanded his reinstatement. Zelaya refused.

· The ballots arrive in Honduras (from Venezuela on a Venezuelan
flagged plane). The Attorney General demands that the ballots be confiscated
and held at a military installation.

· Mel decides that if the military won’t distribute the ballots,
he’ll get his own people to distribute them

· Mel gets a couple of busses and a few cars full of supporters.
They drive to the Air Force installation that was holding the ballots. They
forcibly entered the installation and took the ballots. Not only was this
“breaking and entering” it was a complete betrayal of a lawful order of the
Attorney General

· The Attorney General says that the President has committed treason
and asks for him to be removed from office. The congress created a
commission to examine Zelaya’s actions and determine if removal from office
is appropriate.

· A side note here about removal from office. I’m in no way a
Honduran constitutional expert, but from what I understand, there’s not a
clear means to impeach a sitting president. In a lot of constitutions, the
impeachment of a president would be done by the legislative branch. In
Honduras, there’s no such structure. There could be criminal charges brought
against the president and the trial would be handled by the judicial branch.
Not much different than anyone else accused of a crime. I’ve not heard of
any provision to temporarily remove a president from office until the
criminal charges were adjudicated. What would you do? Let a man accused of
treason remain as the sitting president until the trial was completed? That
would be insane, but that may be the only choice.

· On Saturday, June 27, Mel got most, if not all, of the ballots
distributed around the country. The polls were set to open at 7am on Sunday.

· The Supreme Court voted to remove Zelaya. The Congress decided to
remove Zelaya. The Attorney General stated many times that Zelaya was
committing illegal acts and in fact committing treason. The military
determined that the poll was illegal and that their responsibility was to
uphold the constitution as opposed to supporting the president.

· Early Sunday morning, about 6am, the military went to the
president’s house and removed him from the building. He was put on a plane
to Costa Rica. This was done to enforce the ruling from the Supreme Court.

· This is where Article 42 of the constitution comes into play. The
way that I read that article, Zelaya should have lost his Honduran
citizenship at this point.

· Once Mel had been removed, the President of the Congress (Roberto
Micheletti) was sworn in as the new President of Honduras. This was exactly
the person that is indicated by the constitution. It was a proper and legal
succession of the presidency. The first thing that Micheletti did was
confirm that the regularly scheduled elections would be held in November.
His post is temporary until the new President was duly elected.

· It’s been said all over the press that Mel was arrested in his
pajamas. I personally don’t believe that. In an hour he would have been at
some polling place to vote and also to motivate those that showed up. This
was the biggest day of his life. I’d be amazed if he slept at all – I know I
wouldn’t be able to. There was one report that Mel was actually in suit
pants and a crisply ironed white shirt when he was arrested and he asked to
change into other clothes. Quite frankly, I see this as more likely.

I believe that this is an accurate depiction of the events that led to
Zelaya’s expulsion on Sunday. If I’m wrong on a any points, I don’t think
I’m off by much. The salient points are certainly accurate.

I personally think that it would have been better to arrest Zelaya and hold
him somewhere in the country. He was removed from Honduras in the interest
of public safety. The feeling at the time was that if he was held within
Honduras, his supporters would take violent actions to release him from
captivity. It would be a difficult decision and I’m sure the powers that be
did what they thought was best.

I have been disgusted at the world reaction to these events. It’s like they
only looked at what happened on Sunday morning and ignored what events led
to that day. I don’t understand how the removal of Zelaya was anything less
than a small country demanding that their country remain democratic. Their
constitutional process worked exactly right to remove a rogue president with
an agenda that was detrimental to the Honduran constitution and society.
Call me crazy,quite simply if you find yourself aligned with Castro,
Chavez, and Ortega
– you should REALLY look at where you’re standing!

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