Endgame in Honduras? Montes de María (3): The CCAI and its challenges
Sep 222009

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 is  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.

13 Responses to “Micheletti misleads, and the Washington Post gives him an outlet”

  1. Kyle Says:

    One reason I left journalism behind: in wanting to give everyone a space to speak, it allows outrageous, evidence-less and plan out lies to be published. Somehow the search for “truth” gets lost with the fear of being called biased or the fear of not giving everyone a voice…Giving everyone a voice is fine, but point out non-truths is much more important for me. Here we have yet another great example of such a phenomenon.

  2. Camilo Wilson Says:

    Honduras may be an electoral democracy, like other Latin American societies. But it’s anything but a democratic society. It’s a country with stark inequalities with regard to access to land, productive resources, and the benefits of modern life. Almost 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line (2007 statistics), over 45 percent experiencing extreme poverty. A small elite has long been in control of the country.

    This is the elite and the “civilian order” that Honduras’ U.S. backed and U.S. trained military supports, and has long supported. As for the Washington Post, it’s clear to most of us that the editorial position of the paper supports such regimes in Latin America. I’ve yet to see even a feeble attempt to “give everyone a voice.” And yes, the editorial does indeed give the regime an outlet in Washington. Let’s see how the Obama administration handles this one.

  3. Camilo Wilson Says:

    I have one other thought: Whereas Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua (pre-revolution), and El Salvador have been described as haciendas with flags (haciendas con banderas), the Post editorial can be described as tabloidesque, yellowish journalism with a flagship banner.

  4. Camilo Wilson Says:

    I stand corrected: I should have said “op-ed” rather than “editorial” in my posts above. However, this mistake should not obscure the central message: the editorial wing of the Post, which surely has some vetting function vis-a-vis op-ed pieces, would never have allowed such a piece from the real president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya.

  5. lfm Says:

    The Washington Post misleads and misinforms in the service of its wacky agenda. Up next: ursine mammals defecate in forests.

  6. Zelaya back in Honduras « Petunias Says:

    [...] You can also look at a rebuttal to coup leader Micheletti’s article at the Washington Post here (and also click around there as they also have many posts about the [...]

  7. Chris Says:

    http://www.miamiherald.com/1506/story/1248828.html

    The elite Honduran military/police is using advanced, next-generation devices to eliminate Zelaya! What are we to do…?

    This guy is not going to be reinstated. The global community should push for elections under the premise that neither past or current leader can run. Carter can observe them and then declare that they were legit… like he does everywhere else. Zelaya should go scotch-free… and if he wants to run again in the future, he can do so.

  8. patricia Says:

    1. The police had to disperse the protesters because Zelaya’s people are thugs that have been paid for . They were not thousands(get your facts right please) but they had slept around the Brazilian embassy getting drunk and forcing the neighbors to feed them. They even entered some of the houses and vandalised them.(again get your facts).

    2. When the Gallup Poll asked if the people wanted Zelaya to be ousted maybe that was the answer but when the Gallup Poll asked if they wanted him Constitutionally removed like he actually was, the answer was diferent. Why don’t you publish the whole Poll???

    3. The Military just followed the orders of the Supreme Court and then let the Institutions follow what the Constitution follows.

    4. Pleeeease, look who heads the OAS inter-american human Rights Comission. A VENEZUELAN , probably paid by Chavez who would use her time better if she went to see how Venezuelan people have been oppressed since Chavez came into office.

    PLEASE ASK WHAT ZELAYA WAS DOING BEFORE THE 28th JUST LOOK AT THE TAPES. He led mobs to do break ins into institutions. The USA has impeached a President just for spying!!!! USA almost impeached a President for being unfaithful, ZELAYA had THREE MISTRESSES. CHAVEZ IS ZELAYAS BOSS. CAN’T YOU SEEEEEEEE.

  9. hondureno Says:

    u (the autor) dont have any idea about Honduras!
    come on start study about Honduras before u post something!

  10. Randy Paul Says:

    PLEASE ASK WHAT ZELAYA WAS DOING BEFORE THE 28th JUST LOOK AT THE TAPES. He led mobs to do break ins into institutions. The USA has impeached a President just for spying!!!! USA almost impeached a President for being unfaithful, ZELAYA had THREE MISTRESSES. CHAVEZ IS ZELAYAS BOSS. CAN’T YOU SEEEEEEEE.

    Nixon was not impeached; he resigned in advance of impeachment. However, if a judicial approach had been taken to the Zelaya case (indicting, and actually having a trial in which he had the right to defend himself) rather than bundling him into a plane and tossing him out of the country in violation of the law, Honduras would not be in the state it is in.

    Your injudicious use of the caps lock key, by the way, doesn’t add any credibility to what you wrote. If anything, it brings upa a quote from Macbeth:

    “It is a tale told by an idiot: full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.”

  11. Matt H Says:

    I was completely convinced by the connection of three mistresses to Chavez being the boss, which stemmed from the argument that the US can impeach Presidents for spying and almost got that other one for the blowjob. This kind of argumentation almost makes me want to agree with all the other points, almost but something leads me to think they have the same unfounded lunacy as this concluding argument.

    Who is paying Zelaya’s supporters by the way? Apparently he has a pile of cash sitting around – I mean thats a lot of money to be continually paying out. And before you go off and say “he is rich, don’t you know!” – Yes I do know, but unless these supporters are they getting IOUs written on paper, you have to explain where the hard physical cash is coming from. I suspect Zelaya has trouble accessing his bank account while in Honduras, which leaves one to conclude that if this accusation is true Zelaya has a money train coming into Honduras. That is a huge assumption that is very unlikely given the number of roadblocks across the country. Moving large amounts of cash around to pay off protestors is something only the coup government is ‘theoretically’ capable of within Honduras at the moment.

    So why are you making stuff up patricia? Without this proof the whole argument about why it is legitimate for police and the military to beat up people becomes a disgusting apology for a police-state.

  12. Chris Says:

    Matt H,

    I’ve seen candidates churn up all kinds of people for rallies by simply handing out free coca-cola. You don’t necessarily need a lot to get dirt poor people to do things. And am I sure he has a network in place, domestic and foreign, that’s supporting him. So the money could be coming from various sources.

    I am not saying that it’s happening in this case, but it’s not that far-fetched. Rallying support from the poor with freebies is a proven tactic in 3rd world countries everywhere.

  13. kmd Says:

    Yes, let’s look at what led to the removal of Zelaya. He proposed to change a constitutional term (presidential term limit) that is not subject to amendment according to that constitution. He refused to follow the law as decreed by the Honduran Supreme Court, which had the constitutional authority to hear a case involving the president of Honduras. The Supreme Court also has the constitutional authority to order arrests and enforce judgments through the use of the public forces. The elected National Congress voted to remove Zelaya from the Presidency and, pursuant to the constitution, the president of the National Congress took over the presidency, since the vice-president resigned in January. Hmmm. Sounds like they followed their rule of law, even if it is different from ours. It is NOT a military coup d’tat. By the way, the president of the National Congress was also elected and is from the same party as Zelaya.

    Unfortunately, someone went too far and exiled Zelaya, which appears unconstitutional, since it specifically says in Article 102 that no Honduran can be expatriated. Check out the report to Congress done by the U.S. Law Library of Congress at http://media.sfexaminer.com/documents/2009-002965HNRPT.pdf.

    In the end, dig deeper – Zelaya’s staunchest supporter is Chavez, who also changed his country’s constitution in order to stay in power, and who has weakened his country’s democracy and civil rights. Chavez is highly opposed to the US and would gain a lot of political capital among other countries if the US does not support Zelaya’s return to the presidency. There’s the real coup.

    P.S. Note that Zelaya’s father was convicted for the 1975 massacre of priests and others at Los Horcones. Always ask more.

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