The Washington Post today chose to publish an op-ed by the de facto leader of Honduras’ coup government, Roberto Micheletti. He makes a strong pitch for U.S. and international recognition of the country’s November 29 elections, which will be taking place under his regime’s auspices. This is something that the U.S. State Department and the Organization of American States have so far refused to do.
In making this sales pitch, Micheletti makes a number of unprovable, outrageous, or patently false statements. For example:
“Amid all of the claims that are likely to be made in coming days, the former president [Zelaya] will not mention that the people of Honduras have moved on since the events of that day or that our citizens are looking forward to free, fair and transparent elections on Nov. 29.”
If “the people of Honduras have moved on,” then the Honduran security forces would not have needed to disperse thousands of protesters this morning, using tear gas and rubber bullets, from the area around the Brazilian embassy to Honduras, where returned President Manuel Zelaya is currently taking refuge. The Micheletti government’s actions this morning earned a quick condemnation from the chair of the OAS Permanent Council.
And it is impossible to talk about “free, fair and transparent elections.” Even if the balloting is spotless, those who forcibly removed the last elected leader are in power, the ability of pro-Zelaya candidates to campaign freely is uncertain, and the leader of a powerful political current – the deposed president – is unable to be present in the country, much less campaign.
“On June 28, the Honduran Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for Zelaya for his blatant violations of our constitution, which marked the end of his presidency.”
If that is all that happened, there would be little controversy today. Had Zelaya been arrested, replaced constitutionally, and put on trial with due process, it would have been politically tumultuous for Honduras but would not have affected foreign recognition or support.
But that is not what happened. Instead, the army awoke the President at gunpoint and forced him, upon pain of death, to board a plane and leave the country. This took place even though the Honduran Constitution guarantees due process for people accused of crimes, and Honduran law has no provisions for forced exile or stripping of citizenship. Later, in the legislative proceeding that named Micheletti the country’s president, the coup leaders distributed, and read in the national media, an obviously forged resignation letter allegedly written by Zelaya.
All of these actions – violation of due process, forced exile, fraud – clearly violate Honduran law.
“To this day, an overwhelming majority of Hondurans support the actions that ensured the respect of the rule of law in our country.”
According to what polling or other evidence? A July Gallup poll of Hondurans found that “Forty-six percent said they disagreed with Zelaya’s ouster and 41 percent said they approved of it.”
“Underlying all the rhetoric about a military overthrow are facts. Simply put, coups do not leave civilians in control over the armed forces, as is the case in Honduras today. Neither do they allow the independent functioning of democratic institutions — the courts, the attorney general’s office, the electoral tribunal.”
A coup isÂ an illegal, often violent removal of a head of government. It can take many forms. A uniformed officer need not carry the title of “president” for the event to be considered a “coup.” If anything, the June 28 coup in Honduras ejected a leader of whom the armed forces disapproved (and who, indeed, was likely issuing it illegal orders), and replaced him with a leader whom the armed forces found more palatable.
Of the independent institutions Micheletti mentions, the courts and the attorney general’s office both actively supported the June 28 coup. Of course their functioning hasn’t been affected.
“Coups do not allow freedom of assembly, either. They do not guarantee freedom of the press, much less a respect for human rights. In Honduras, these freedoms remain intact and vibrant.”
This outrageous claim contradicts credible reports about the human rights situation inside Honduras. See, for instance, reports produced last month by the OAS Inter-American Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International. For concerns about press freedom, see the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Honduras page or this article by the Council of the Americas. These sources give the lie to Micheletti’s statements, which the Washington Post should have taken the care to submit to even the most basic of fact-checking.
“The writer is president of Honduras.”
That line – which is how the Washington Post identifies Micheletti at the bottom of the column – may be the most misleading of the entire article. The Post failed even to insert the word “de facto” or “acting,” and thereby did its readers a disservice.