There are No Ideal Solutions To This Coup D’état
There are no ideal solutions to the crisis generated by the coup d’état because any immediate solution will run up against a country devoid of institutionality. The Honduran institutions are very precarious, the bi-polar model has collapsed and any effective solution has to reach beyond mere negotiations between those sectors that carried out the coup and those that suffered it.
Ismael Moreno, SJ
All of us in El Progreso were expecting something odd to happen on Sunday 28. Coup or no coup, the day was full of omens. The “consultation” or “citizens’ survey” that had caused such discord and controversy was to be held that Sunday. Nobody was sure whether there would be disturbances between the “pro-fourth-ballot boxists” and “anti-fourth-ballot-boxists,” but the atmosphere was tense enough for something extraordinary to happen and—without any need for precise figures—everybody feared that it might. This wasn’t the result of any supernatural premonitions, but rather the events of the previous week, full of scares and sudden political decisions. The coup was like the final act of an eventful and agitated political week.
“Things are already out of our hands”A phone call by my old journalist friend Sandra Maribel Sánchez woke me with the news: “Get up! This country’s going under!” That night I’d slept in fits and starts. I couldn’t get out of my head the final image I’d seen on the national television channel convoked by the President of Honduras that Saturday night: the US ambassador literally racing out of the press conference. Why did he run out? Why didn’t they interview him? And why did he go out of his way to avoid being interviewed? I couldn’t shake that image, which concerned me although I didn’t want to pay too much attention to it. I associated it with the call I’d received from a Honduran politician regarding a proposal to the country’s different political leaders for dialogue made by the Reflection, Research and Communication TEam (ERIC) of the Jesuits in Honduras and our radio station, Radio Progreso: “Thank you for your proposal that we to sit down and dialogue. But I’m going to be honest with you: I don’t think your proposal can be listened to anymore; things are already out of our hands.” For me the ambassador’s racing out was a premonition, an omen that something strange, perhaps terrible, was about to happen.
When I went to bed I left the telephone close by. Then Sandra Maribel broke the news to me: “They’re taking Mel out of his house; they’re pulling off a coup against him.” My mind immediately returned to that image of the ambassador running out a few hours earlier.
I switched on the radio and listened to a Tegucigalpa station. I was amazed to hear the newscaster saying, “No, nothing’s happening here. Everything’s normal. It’s true that the President’s residence is cordoned off, but that’s an issue for politicians. We shouldn’t be concerned about that. Let’s keep calm and not get carried away by sensationalist news. Let’s have a quiet Sunday.”
We couldn’t let the coup I couldn’t bear it and called my contacts. They told me the President was already at the airport. I tuned into Radio Progreso, which was broadcasting its scheduled program of Mexican regional music. I called Karla and other colleagues from ERIC) and we raced off to the station. Sitting in front of the microphone, we wondered what we were going to say. The station had planned to cover the Zelaya government’s planned citizens’ survey that day and we had what journalist Félix Molina said was an “explosive” exclusive taped interview with Government Minister Víctor Meza. But the with the big news of the coup, we only reproduced the reference to our proposa by Meza—who had already gone into hidingl. As it turned out, the die had already been cast, as I was informed by that politician on the eve of the coup.
be covered up through silence
When we started to broadcast information and make contacts with the capital city, we were shaken by the thunderous noise of airplanes overhead. It was a sure sign that something serious and dangerous was approaching. And we said as much on air: “What happened this morning is called a coup d’état.” We immediately received a call from Tegucigalpa: “They’ve just said that they’ll close down anyone who calls this a coup.” Should we go on saying it? We decided to carry on because we couldn’t allow the coup to be covered up through silence. We managed to communicate with other media and through them were able to reveal that Mel Zelaya had arrived in San José in his pajamas.
We reproduced Zelaya’s first dramatic and distressed declarations. “If they did that to the President, what might they do to us?” I thought, looking at my colleagues at the station. They were all young, enthusiastic people who only knew about coups from what they’d read in history books.
Roberto Micheletti is Uncertainty tends to make one magnify dangers, but what was happening wasn’t likely to generate much calm. The figure of Roberto Micheletti—so well-known in El Progreso, his birthplace—reared up like the monster from the black lagoon. If a coup d’état had taken place, only one person could be the new head of the executive branch, because a coup was the only way left to him to get his hands on the post he had so desperately wanted for three decades.
addicted to power
Being President of Honduras was Micheletti’s obsession or addiction. With Zelaya he was able to become president of Congress, which in Honduras is almost equal to being President of the country, but the addict still needed a stronger dose of power. He managed to violate the Constitution, which forbids a sitting president of Congress from aspiring to presidential office in party primaries, but just when he thought he had everything lined up for the party’s November 2008 primary elections, his fellow Liberals turned their back on him. His contorted face gave him away the night he was defeated. It was like watching a hopeless drug addict going through withdrawal cold turkey. The coup was the only way left open to him. The anti-Zelaya, and above all anti-Chávez businesspeople knew it and knew how to exploit it, as did the militarist gringos. His own wife knew it as well, and her extreme desire to play a leading role gave him the final push.
Like 30 years agoOur personal and institutional histories with Micheletti in El Progreso have been marked by disagreements, conflicts, arguments, threats, suspicions, accusations and distrust. He’d already said it in an extremely closed circle four years before: “I’m not going to rest in peace until I’ve sh** on that sh**** radio station.” And now, during those early hours of the 28th, his name was being bandied about as the surefire President of the de facto government. How could we in the radio station keep calm? Exactly 30 years before, those responsible for the military coup had closed it down and it was off the air for four months. And now, here we were again, broadcasting the news of another coup d’état from a radio station in the sights of someone who was ready to sit in the presidential chair from which Zelaya had been expelled.
At ten in the morning of that same Sunday, we received the news that Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas had been captured. Rodas is a lifelong friend whom I have harshly criticized in my analyses and reflections. They said she had been captured along with some ambassadors.
An emissary immediately turned up: “They’re coming for the radio station! The military have the station surrounded!” Without knowing how, I felt myself being pushed by my colleagues. They literally took me and we opened a gate onto the street where I saw a military contingent and a crowd of people shouting in defense of the station. They kept on pushing me and got me into a vehicle that took me far from the threatening scene and the olive green.
I was told that at 11am, the soldiers forced their way into the radio station. While the people outside tried to get in to face off against the soldiers, the military forced Karla, Peraza, Tavito, Rommel, Joksan, Iolani, Gerardo and the others to switch off the equipment at machine-gunpoint. There was so much pressure from the people outside that the soldiers reportedly got so nervous they began to get purple in the face. If the people had knocked the gate down at that moment a lot of blood could have been spilt. But the radio team went into action; they went out into the street and talked to the people, convincing them to let the soldiers out.
We will be the voice of the peopleThat afternoon we sat down to make some decisions. What should we do? After just a few exchanges we were quite clear: we’re a radio station, a voice. If we don’t have a voice, we’re not a radio. We’re going to defend the radio because it’s the voice of people who otherwise don’t have one. And so we reopened Radio Progreso during the early hours of Monday June 29 and haven’t stopped broadcasting since. Our schedule was limited by the curfews and above all the security of colleagues who risked their lives from the microphone. We broadcast from 6 am to 8 pm, reducing by five hours our normal program broadcasting, which starts at 4 am and closes at 11 pm.
From June 29 until now we’ve organized a special transmission every day, covering the streets and the news from the actual location where events were taking place. Our reporters have had to deal with tear gas and to flee from military persecution. They’ve received threats, anonymous letters with insults, and walked over hills from the department of El Paraíso to cover the news from the border with Nicaragua. We’ve been present at the dialogues in San José; and in Managua, directly covering the exiled President’s voice. We’ve opened up the microphone to interview peasants, economists, writers, feminists, sociologists, historians, poet and religious people from Honduras and Latin America as a whole.
A silver lining of We’ve experienced solidarity firsthand and have also discovered firsthand the reality of what we’ve so often formulated as networks of solidarity and communication. The Latin American Association for Radiophonic Education (ALER) and the network of Passionate Radio Workers have been glued to our programming and thanks to that networking relationship, hundreds of radio stations in our continent have broadcast the real situation in our country. We have received fierce criticism from hard-line pro-coup sectors, who go out of their way to put us in the same sack as the pro-Mel Zelaya sectors. And the pro-Mel sectors feel happy because our radio station makes them feel stronger.
struggle and solidarity
Radio Progreso has been working to avoid this extreme polarization, but both poles are trying to pull us towards their respective extremes. The deafest and cruelest criticism isn’t so much that coming from the coup perpetrators—it would be shameful for us if we didn’t receive any from them—as from those sectors shielded behind their liturgies and in their very comfortable religious posts that are frightened that a supposedly “Catholic” radio station is so involved in politics. They go out of their way to distance themselves and claim that we’re a marginalized sector of the Church. They say that the Church, the truth, is lined up behind the Cardinal’s words, as pronounced on July 4 then repeated over and over again on the national television channels imposed by the de facto regime. The Catholic radios hold their silence and continue with kindly and sentimental preaching, accompanied by canticles about fish and clouds, tears and glory. The Catholic radio stations left Radio Progreso on its own. Joining up with it would have been to splatter themselves with the sin of politics, although the coup-based politics profoundly stained our hierarchy.
But solidarity from Latin America and the Caribbean and from the communities and social organizations more than made up for the absence and silence of our beloved local and national Church. We have never before experienced such closeness and communion with so many friendly people acting in solidarity as during these fateful days of the coup d’état. If every cloud has a silver lining, then the silver lining of the Michelettist coup is struggle and solidarity, we joke in the corridors and during the brief breaks we have on the radio, which gives us such gushing life.
The basic known factsHere’s what we already know: In the early hours of June 28, a military contingent forced its way into the residence of President Zelaya, overpowered his security guards and forced him to leave with machine guns and threats. They put him into a vehicle that took him to the air base, from where a plane took him to San José, Costa Rica. The day of the kidnapping and exile, a consultation or citizens’ survey was to have been held to gauge the population’s opinion about Congress approving a fourth ballot box for November’s general elections, through which the population would vote on whether or not they wanted to reform the Constitution. On the eve of the vote, the President and his Cabinet called a conference with the participation of the diplomatic corps to present the international observers who would be at the voting centers across the country.
On Wednesday June 24, the President had sacked General Romeo Vásquez from his post as commander of the Honduran Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff after he refused to comply with an order for the army to transfer the ballot boxes for the consultation to the different voting places. Zelaya also accepted the resignation of the defense minister, lawyer Edmundo Orellana, under the same argument of respecting the court sentence that had declared the fourth ballot box illegal. The army, navy and air force commanders all handed in their resignations in solidarity with their commander.
A document from the circles in which the parliamentary representatives move was circulated in the days following the coup. It said that the plan to disqualify the President was put into action on the 24th in Congress through a motion to be presented by a Christian Democratic representative alleging the President’s mental incapacity to govern the country. However, according to sources from the Nationalist/Liberal bipartite sector, at least 20 Liberal representatives withdrew from the session, refusing to support an initiative by Carlos Flores Facussé to have his daughter Lizzie elected National Congress president. This made it impossible to get the stipulated three-quarters of the votes to disqualify the country’s President.
On Thursday 25, Zelaya called together the grassroots organizations, which accompanied him to the air base to collect the ballot boxes and have them distributed across the country. The next day, ERIC and Radio Progreso delivered our proposal for urgent dialogue, to be mediated by an international commission, to various representatives from the opposing poles of the conflict. The aim was to avoid a coup and any social unrest, which would have unpredictable consequences for the whole country.
Patricia Rodas and “the patricians”Zelaya had started his administration with a strong confrontation between his own team, led by Patricia Rodas, and Carlos Flores Facussé. In the days leading up to the November 2005 elections, which Zelaya won, there had been rumors that the different opinion polls were showing Nationalist Party candidate Pepe Lobo with a 9% lead, and that scores were going to be settled with Liberal candidate Zelaya’s team.
Flores Facussé supposedly invited the party’s “patricians,” as the Zelaya team has been dubbed, to his own house where he made it clear that they would be held responsible if the Liberals lost the elections and the party would be restructured, excluding them.
It is also held in different political circles that the leader of Mel Zelaya’s team, Patricia Rodas, had at least two reasons to promote her own ideology within the Liberal Party and imprint it on the Honduran state. The first was to liberate the party, which is explained by the fact she’s the youngest daughter of Liberal caudillo Modesto Rodas. Liberating the party thus implies taking on the “impostor” Flores Facussé, whose father—Oscar Flores—supposedly betrayed Rodas’ father, the party’s near shoe-in presidential candidate in 1963. However, Oscar Flores, who was in the Cabinet of then-President Ramón Villeda Morales, is said to have plotted with the armed forces in the military coup of October 3 that year, thus blocking Patricia’s father’s apparently safe path to the presidency. The second reason is that having freed the Liberal Party from the “imposter,” they would supposedly work to consolidate a party that would once again take up the struggles and demands of the grassroots movement that were frustrated during the eighties.
Micheletti’s alliancesTo set this plan in motion, Zelaya’s team forged a closer relationship with fellow Liberal Roberto Micheletti, which turned into an alliance. Mel guaranteed Micheletti the National Congress presidency and Micheletti promised to support all the draft bills presented by the executive branch, starting with the citizens’ participation and transparency laws.
The citizens’ participation law was approved the same day Congress was inaugurated, and Micheletti was elected President following fierce and difficult negotiations both among Liberals and between them and Nationalists. But while Micheletti was reaching one hand out to Zelaya, the other was in the firm grip of Flores Facussé, who had also supported him for the presidency of Congress in exchange for Micheletti helping Lizzie Flores become vice president. At that point, Micheletti had the support of both Flores Facussé and former President Rafael Leonardo Callejas in his bid to be the party’s next presidential candidate, on the condition that he reform the Constitution to remove a number of untouchable articles known as the “stone-clad” articles.
Two years later: Looking for ChávezThe Zelaya government team was fiercely distrusted right from the start by Flores Facussé and sectors close to him, including the US Embassy, particularly Charles Ford who was ambassador at the time.
During the first year, Mel Zelaya and his team made a big effort to win over both sectors of the Honduran Right and the US Embassy, while trying to keep their distance from the Honduran grassroots movement. But finding the distances too great to generate the desired sympathies, in the second year Zelaya’s team sought alliances among other sectors with which they shared certain ideological affinities: in the 1980s, several members of Zelaya’s team had joined in with the struggles of the student movements, the Honduran radical Left and the Latin American and Caribbean Left.
Although Patricia Rodas had maintained the relations that she had developed with the Cubans, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans long before the election campaign, it wasn’t until the second year of the Zelaya administration that the President took firm steps toward establishing an alliance with the Latin American bloc led by Hugo Chávez.
Strong within ALBA, That alliance would be publicly signed and sealed in Managua on July 19, 2007, the anniversary of the Sandinista revolution. It was two days after the national police—on Zelaya’s orders—violently repressed a demonstration in western Honduras in which Christian base communities, including several priests, participated. The protesters had blocked off highways demanding a new mining law.
but isolated nationally
From July 2007 onwards events really speeded up: the Petrocaribe agreements, the signing of Honduras’ incorporation into the Latin Americawn Bolivarian Alternative (ALBA), agreements between the government and leaders of grassroots organizations, Venezuelan tractors, education and health programs with Venezuela and Cuba… As the relationship established with the ALBA countries grew and more decisions were made with them, there was increasing confrontation with and distancing from the power sectors in the Liberal and National parties, tourism and fast-food businesspeople, maquiladora owners, the pharmaceutical industry, banks, owners of football teams and the mass media, as well as the US Embassy and the capital city’s Catholic hierarchy.
Colliding against an illusionSince the electoral campaign that took Mel Zelaya to the presidency, his team was quite clear that it was not seeking control of the state for just four years, but rather for a prolonged period that, according to its logic, would allow it push through profound economic and social transformations. This decision was consolidated with the alliance and commitments established with Hugo Chávez.
And the more they consolidated the foreign alliance with Chávez, the more they trusted in the strength of the leadership of a relatively non-existent grassroots movement, while also ignoring the work they needed to do on the ground within the Liberal party. The alliance with Chávez created a mirage within Zelaya’s team. The power and strength Chávez transmitted to them was inversely proportional to the power and strength they were losing within the country. The thirst for power and control of the state bound them to a political illusion that set them on a collision course, particularly starting in 2009. And everything ended in that critical collision of Sunday June 28.
The leaders of Liberalism succeeded in excluding Mel’s team from the party leadership. At the end of 2008, each side had already taken up its position and was well dug in. On one side was Mel and his team, supported by Chávez and the leadership of the grassroots movement, while on the other was Flores Facussé and his political alliance with Callejas and the most hard-line business sector, its media forces and the at least moral backing of the Tegucigalpa Catholic Church hierarchy.
Only the fourth ballot box was left…By April 2009, Flores Facussé controlled the Liberal Party following the Zelaya sector’s practical expulsion from the sector. The patricians had lost their struggle to control the Supreme Court and the Public Ministry, having already seen the human rights commissioner elected in 2008 with Flores Facussé’s unconditional support.
In January 2009, when Zelaya’s team saw it was losing control of the Supreme Court, it attempted a constitutional rupture, placing armored cars outside Congress under the direction of then Defense Minister Tito Mejía, one of the blindest and most obstinate promoters of the continuity of Zelaya’s team in control of state power.
Excluded from the Liberal Party and without controlling any state body except the Presidential offices, Mel Zelaya’s team decided to call for a “fourth ballot box” to elect a Constituent Assembly that would draw up a new Constitution.
Changing the Constitution’s untouchable, “stone-clad” articles was a political aim that Flores Facussé and Callejas had been promoting since 1992. But a reform that meant losing power to adverse forces that were in alliance with Hugo Chávez to boot could not be allowed. The business sector led primarily by people of Arab origin and by the Creoles of old Tegucigalpa—surely the most conservative and small-minded oligarchy in Central America—could not allow the national markets to be opened up to competition from Brazilian, Venezuelan, Cuban, Chilean and Argentine capital, especially in fields as lucrative as drug franchises, fuel, banking, vehicle imports and fast food.
Just an inch, not a hundred milesThe Zelaya group was becoming a headache for those who have used the state and its goods for their own particular benefit. Zelaya’s proposal didn’t represent a drastic change for the country. It was just a small opening up to other markets that didn’t compromise the strongest business sectors. In fact, this “threat” only implied the big businesspeople and traditional politicians ceding an inch in their privileges. But they got so worked up they’ve presented it as being forced to cede a hundred miles. And not only did they produce a coup d’état, they’re now demanding another hundred miles of privileges in addition to those they enjoyed before the Zelaya administration.
Mel Zelaya’s team launched its enterprise believing it had forces it was actually far from having. They underestimated the enemy forces, which pull almost all strings of politics, the economy and the media, as well as ideologically and religiously managing nearly all of national life.
The coup’s plotters and supportersThroughout Zelaya’s administration, a political-business-military-media-religious alliance was being formed in opposition to the President and his team. This alliance, which was only consolidated in the last two years of Zelaya’s government, is led by Flores Facussé, first and foremost; as well as Jorge Canahuati, owner of the daily papers El Heraldo and La Prensa, among other businesses; Rafael Leonardo Callejas and the most hard-line National Party sector; the Ferrari-Villeda-Toledo families, owners of the HRN and TN-5 media, among many other businesses; Miguel Facussé Barjúm; Fredy Nasser; the Andonie family, which owns Audiovideo (Radio América) and according to different sources controls the international drug franchises, together with Kafati and its Finlay industry; the Kafati family, which with all of the industries linked to Intur administrates the fast food franchises; the Atala and Lamas families, and other similar ones, which control the world of commerce and Honduran Arab capital; the retired armed forces officers from the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth promotions, particularly Santos Isaac Aguilar, Eric Sánchez and Mario “el Tigre” Amaya; and officers who are experts in national security, such as Billy Joya and Alexander Hernández, who at one point supported Mel Zelaya’s candidacy as Micheletti’s “right-hand men.”
These national sectors had the direct and efficient backing of the US political sectors that controlled national security from the Pentagon during the administration of George W. Bush, particularly John Dimitri Negroponte and Otto Reich. For these people the fight isn’t against Mel Zelaya, but fundamentally against the geopolitical danger represented in the region by Hugo Chávez, who they see as the Fidel Castro of the 21st century.
Washington’s dilemmasThe coup’s perpetrators never expected unanimous international rejection of the coup. They may have predicted a week of confusion, while the pieces were put into place and a solid justification was put forward through a diplomatic offensive. But they predicted that in the medium term the rejection would be reduced to the ALBA bloc countries.
Right from the start the US government found itself caught between rejection of the idea of a coup and pressure from the most hard-line rightwing sector supporting the perpetrators. In the end it condemned the coup and leaned toward finding a solution that would represent the lesser of two evils. Obama clearly stated from the first day that he respected governors who had been elected by their people, although he had no sympathies for the Zelaya government.
Washington has been juggling two possible solutions to the crisis. The first is the return of Zelaya without a fourth ballot box or any real power, which amounts to a return to the pre-June 28th scenario, but without Zelaya’s proposed reforms and Constituent Assembly. This is in fact the proposal underlying Oscar Arias’ San José agreements.
And if that doesn’t work, then as a second option Washington wouldn’t look badly on a kind of “third way” in which the not very presentable Micheletti would leave the stage and be replaced as President by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. The elections would be brought forward and the armed forces would promise to respect the elected authorities.
The first scenario is currently favored by both Flores Facussé and the US State Department. However, the rest of the pro-coup alliance has rejected it, arguing that, if reinstated, Zelaya would empower himself even more, this time with Chávez’s military backing, and would thus more vigorously move towards a Zelaya-Rodas-Chávez political dictatorship. The only scenario the coup alliance minus Flores would be willing to accept is the second: a de facto regime without Micheletti and bringing forward the elections, which the National Party would win, paving the way for a government that would put the house in order over the next four years, clearing up the mess left behind by the Liberals.
Our fragile democraciesAfter over a month of the de facto regime, the international community is still firmly rejecting the coup and has passed from diplomatic actions to economic sanctions. The only valid scenario for the international community is the one proposed in the San José agreements. Under no circumstances will they accept a government that will continue to put Latin American democracies in question. Along with the European governments, Latin American governments cannot accept any other solution, let alone justify a coup d’état. They are quite aware that the current democracies are built on very fragile institutional foundations and that if this coup is consolidated then other new coups could be forged in Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, to name some of the more vulnerable countries.
The ALBA group and Mel Zelaya are clinging to a third scenario: Zelaya’s reinstatement, continuing promotion of the Constituent Assembly, punishing the coup’s perpetrators and holding the elections replete with the fourth ballot box.
There’s a widespread feeling that the fragility of Latin American democracies was demonstrated in Honduras, the weakest link, and that this rupture affects not only Honduras. According to this assessment, our country is currently reflecting who controls the democracies and what role will continue to be played by the United States, the armed forces, private enterprise, the Left, civil society and the churches in the national and Latin American societies and economies.
Birth pains or death throes?There are no ideal scenarios for a way out of the current crisis. At the very most, one can hazard a guess at possible or desirable scenarios, but whatever the immediate solution to the crisis, it will run up against a country bereft of institutionality.
The institutions are in a particularly precarious position. The political parties, Congress, Supreme Court, Public Ministry and National Human Rights Commissioner all lack the credibility required to sustain the rule of law. We have reached a moment at which formal democracy has failed, as expressed in the complete lack of institutionality. In the end, everything is subordinated to the arbitrarinesses of the leaders of the political parties or the interests of big private enterprise.
The bipartite model has collapsed. As journalist and analyst Manuel Torres Calderón put it, “What we’re experiencing is very painful and tragic. We have to ask ourselves whether what we’re experiencing is birth pains, from something new that’s about to be born, or death throes, from something currently on its death bed.”
The period of representative or tutelage democracy that started in 1982 came to an end on June 28. For Manuel Torres
the argument of “presidential succession” used by the coup perpetrators to justify the violent action of June 28 is similar to what happened on January 27, 1982. Back then the transfer of power from military to civilian rule did not represent the rupture from a militarist model toward a civilian one, but rather a true presidential succession in which the patrimonialist power of the state was passed from the military to the politicians.
A very dangerous crossroadsWhat could be happening with this coup is not so much that kind of succession, but rather a fracturing that could turn into a rupture if the sectors of Honduran society can turn this moment into an opportunity to build a proposal that really breaks with the patrimonial conception of the state, which is what underlies the coup d’état.
We find ourselves in a situation in which everything has fallen around us and facing an inevitable dilemma: either recover a proposal of democracy through a social and political pact with the participation of new actors, or we’ll move toward a new period defined by authoritarianism and controlled by forces that reach beyond the recognized public institutions.
At this moment we’re at a very dangerous crossroads, facing catastrophe. Either we seek a solution that doesn’t just involve negotiations between the coup’s perpetrators and victims, or we’ll move toward social and political decomposition with unpredictable consequences.
Until when?The social movement placed its trust in Mel Zelaya and he placed his in the social movement. Both have been left astonished, because they didn’t expect the extreme political and economic Right of Honduras and the United States to act with such force and capacity. Nor did they weigh up their own weaknesses. They are now seeking to regroup and consolidate with the support of discontented sectors of the Liberal Party, organized sectors in the territories and the alliance with Chávez and the Latin American community.
There’s no way the de facto government can have sustained itself during a month of internal rejection and resistance and, above all, such levels of repudiation from the international community without active support by both the country’s strongest political and economic sectors and very well placed sectors in US institutions.
There are suspicions that the coup has not only been sustained by the clean capital of the business groups, but also by groups that have previously financed political activities and are interested in exploiting the current crisis to launder a large part of their assets.
What can we expect The fundamental demand is the restitution of the constitutional order and therefore the resignation of the de facto regime. Unless that condition is met then all that can be expected is ongoing and even growing political and social instability. For the de facto regime, the next elections represent a fundamental arena for ensuring its current existence.
from the elections?
However, some governments have already begun to say that not only will they not recognize the elections, they will also not recognize any government that emerges from elections held in the context of a de facto regime, because it would inevitably also be de facto...
What can we expect from those elections? They might be a factor in speeding up the restitution of legality and the transformation of the country. But they might also be a factor used by antidemocratic forces to justify a regime of growing authoritarianism. The elections will not resolve the crisis in themselves. In fact they are part of the crisis and are not necessarily a source of democracy just because they are elections. The demand to restitute legality is just a prior condition for starting down the long and difficult path of addressing the causes at the root of the current political crisis.
A coup rooted in a patrimonial stateWe have to accept that this isn’t a moment of instability. It’s a period of instability that can’t be resolved by authoritarianism, repression or blaming Venezuela or the United States. Resolving the crisis begins by reinstating constitutional legality, but we must move toward reflecting on and acting in response to the serious problems of inequity, production and the rupture of the social fabric, as well as the cultural, political and ethical challenges. Politics has to be transformed. It can’t continue being the same patrimonial politics that produces caudillos, corruption and impunity. However many legal arguments are used to justify the violation of the rule of law, the only people fooled by this are those who want to be. This coup d’état has confirmed that our country has spent 28 years with the law subordinated to politics, and more specifically to a handful of politicians and big businesspeople who only act according to the law of the mightiest.
That is root of the corruption and the impunity that crystallized into the coup d’état, and it is a permanent source of corruption and impunity. Politicians who have spent nearly 30 years in Congress or moving from one ministry to another confirm the patrimonialist conception of the state. And they are today’s coup perpetrators. It is this conception of politics that has to be transformed if we want to turn this crisis into a rupture rather than a simple succession of the moment.
The coup was based on the fact that certain political and powerful gentlemen started to fear that their patrimony—i.e. the state—would be snatched away from them. They acted exactly like they owned the state, using all possible resources, starting with ensuring that the laws favored them in order to stop anyone else from managing the state and all of its goods for their own pleasure and whim.
If we understand corruption as the perverse use of goods for private benefit, whether personal or as a group; the conception of the state as the patrimony of a reduced sector of politicians and businesspeople is a permanent act of corruption. And the coup d’état—which forced the whole of society to obey a regime imposed by force—is the maximum expression of that act of corruption.
The Church needs to speak outUsing strong words against the de facto regime, there’s an urgent need to call for a dialogue that involves the participation of other sectors in addition to those involved in the bipartite scheme. In this respect, the Catholic hierarchy has irremediably lost its moral role of encouraging dialogue as the result of its explicit political support and praise for the pro-coup sector. Rather than silence, the only thing that would partially restitute its credibility would be for its bishops to humbly recognize from their position of autonomy that there was no consensus among the episcopate with regard to that unpleasant appearance of Cardinal Rodríguez. At the same time and in the name of many people of good faith, they should call on the de facto regime to resign as a necessary step for starting down the long and difficult path to national reconciliation.
Continuing to maintain the appearance of a non-existent unity will only further damage the Church. In times like the
ones we are currently experiencing, it’s much better for the Church to be honest with society, even if it means revealing differences on political issues—if not faith or doctrine—rather than to keep internal conflicts covered up at the cost of continuing to fuel an atmosphere of confusion and double standards, which are always bad examples for a citizenry that needs words of truth and comfort.
An agreement with In the absence of any accredited and credible bodies in the country, we need the presence of international mediators. The most desirable thing at this moment is to achieve both a political negotiation before Mel Zelaya suddenly arrives in the country and a negotiated agreement so he can return in the context of a government that:
– guarantees November’s elections;
– redefines and negotiates the time and occasion for discussing a Constituent Assembly, probably within a year of the presidential succession of January 2010;
– and guarantees the participation of independent candidacies accepted by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal under the same conditions as those currently enjoyed by candidates from political parties.
And there should be a political commitment that the next government will:
– convoke a national arena to seek consensus over redefining the modality and process for the election of authorities chosen through second-tier elections;
– eliminate the concentration of powers in the president of the National Congress and the armed forces;
– and achieve a minimum commitment to a national development plan with oversight bodies that guarantee the honest and transparent use of state resources.
Ismael Moreno, sj, is the envío correspondent in Honduras.