Surprise! : Betrayal in Honduras as ‘Golpistas’ Ignore Accord

Manuel Zelaya closes a window at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Photo from AFP.

Celebration was premature;
United States expresses ‘disappointment’

…negotiating with the golpistas for reinstatement of the democratically elected president is like negotiating with thieves for the return of stolen property.

By David Holmes Morris / The Rag Blog / November 8, 2009

See David Morris’ translations of articles by Arturo Cano and Pablo Ordaz, Below.

Within a week of the signing of the agreement that was to end the four-month political crisis in Honduras, the de facto government has betrayed its purpose and the constitutional government has given it up as one last failed attempt to undo the coup d’état.

The Tegucigalpa/San José Accord, signed on October 29, was the result of three weeks of negotiation between representatives of de facto president Roberto Micheletti and democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. It appeared at first to solve the thorny issue of Zelaya’s restitution by approving it in principle and leaving final approval to the country’s unicameral legislature, thus confirming, symbolically at least, that Zelaya had been removed from office in a coup d’état and not as punishment for criminal acts, as the coup government had claimed.

But delaying resolution of the crisis until after the November 29 elections has been the golpistas’ plan all along and the congressional leadership was more than willing to further the plan. It decided to consult with the Supreme Court and several other institutions before calling a special session of the legislature to consider restitution, a process that could easily stall any action until the next president is elected three weeks from now. The Accord did not establish a deadline for restitution.

In the meantime, Micheletti ceremoniously fulfilled the letter of another provision of the Accord by forming, unilaterally, a government of “national unity and reconciliation” by the deadline established in the Accord. Zelaya refused to submit names for the new government because, he argued, the spirit, if not the letter, of the Accord called for him, as constitutional president, to preside over such a government. Zelaya calls Micheletti’s move crass manipulation, dismisses the Accord as a failure and calls for boycotting the elections and for protests in the streets to continue.

What is left unsaid in official circles is that negotiating with the golpistas for reinstatement of the democratically elected president is like negotiating with thieves for the return of stolen property.

Journalist Arturo Cano has been reporting on events in Honduras for La Jornada of Mexico City since the crisis began. The following is my translation of an article of his published on November 6. Following that is an article from El País of Madrid by Pablo Ordaz about ordinary people in Honduras struggling to survive in bad and worsening circumstances.

Zelaya declares that ‘the Accord is now worthless’

TEGUCIGALPA, Nov. 6, 2009 — The golpistas say everybody condemns them because nobody knows what was really going on in Honduras before June 28. Last week, when everybody thought they knew, as they celebrated the signing of an agreement that, according to news media all over the world, would end more than four months of crisis, it turned out that the golpistas were right: nobody knows what is going on in Honduras.

How else can we explain why, a week after the Tegucigalpa/San José Accord was signed, the United States feels “disappointed” and the Organization of American States “deplores” the “disruption” of compliance with the Accord?

From Washington, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza urges Roberto Micheletti and Manuel Zelaya to reach an agreement on the government of “unity and reconciliation,” which “should be presided over, naturally, by the person the Honduran people elected to carry out the duties of the president of the republic.”

The Union of South American Nations demands the “immediate restitution” of Zelaya and the foreign ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean condemn golpista Micheletti’s unilateral appointment of a cabinet of “national unity.”

The de facto president doesn’t even lose his composure. Night falls in the midst of warnings of the “imminent” appointment of the new cabinet and of threats against anyone daring to organize a boycott of the electoral process.

In practical terms, the only opinion that matters to the de facto government is broadcast time and again on the official television channel: an interview with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, who says Zelaya’s restitution, or otherwise, is the “business of Hondurans.” News shows on the private channels also play it over and over again.

Micheletti appears on television with renewed vigor, happy, accompanied by all his officials, those who are leaving and those who are staying, since even his own office has leaked the names of the ministries in which there will be no change: the ministries of the presidency, foreign affairs, finance, agriculture, defense and security.

Twenty-three days before they are to occur, the elections are the topic of the headlines and of most of the space in all the news media. The golpista government and the media owners who support it don’t doubt that the United States will recognize the elections. By their priorities, the rest of the countries of the world are in a distant second place.

The zelayistas and all those who celebrated the Accord a week ago had placed their trust in the existence of “two Accords, one written and one understood,” Marvin Ponce of the Partido Unificación Democrática explained three days after the signing. “The businessmen and the politicians who orchestrated the coup accepted Zelaya’s restitution because otherwise they would be back at point zero. Now we’ll see whether there is the political will.”

Demonstrators supporting Manuel Zelaya shout slogans in Tegucigalpa, Nov. 2, 2009. Photo by Eduardo Verdugo / AP.

Congress received the document, which had been signed on October 30, on Monday, November 2. Its governing board, controlled by Micheletti’s congressmen, decided on its own to consult the Supreme Court and three other institutions. The justices didn’t receive the petition until Thursday the fifth. “We have acted with the greatest diligence,” says congressional chairman José Alfredo Saavedra.

“The measures agreed to in the Accord are clear and were endorsed freely by all the parties. I would hope that they will be implemented without further evasion in order to re-establish democracy, institutional legitimacy and harmony among Hondurans,” Insulza declared in a statement issued from the U.S. capital.

They don’t see it that way here. “I don’t know why they signed that. They left their flanks exposed,” says a leader of the resistance, his head bowed, his face revealing the mood of the zelayistas, still in the streets for the 131st day since the coup d’état.

The Frente de Resistencia meets again in front of Congress, which isn’t meeting, and then more than 500 people march to the area of the Brazilian embassy, where President Zelaya is in refuge.

“I don’t want Afghan elections for my country,” the constitutional leader tells Radio Globo. “I’m not willing to legitimize fraud or to legitimize the imposition of power or to whitewash this coup d’état.”

His followers in the streets radicalize the discourse: “It’s not a simple matter of not voting. Just as they took the ballot boxes from us (for the poll on the Constituent Assembly) on June 28, we must take the ballot boxes from them as well,” says indigenous leader Salvador Zúñiga.

Although some of the zelayistas, particularly those who are members of the Partido Liberal, hold to the idea of “not leaving the whole cake for the golpistas,” the more active organizations in the resistance have decided not to endorse “the electoral fraud.” From this day forward, “politicians are forbidden from entering our neighborhoods and communities and we are going to forbid them from setting up polling places,” Zúñiga says.

Zelaya, for his part, declares that “the Accord is now worthless” and he rejects it as a failure. His representatives nevertheless still hold meetings with OAS officials, although without much hope for a solution.

The president reaches out again to the continental community. “Let them reach the decisions they consider suitable,” he says of the members of the OAS.

But the voice that matters most sticks with the talks, which favor the golpistas. Ian Kelly, spokesman for the State Department, urges the parties to return to the negotiating table to work out their differences.

“A unilaterally decided government is not a government of unity,” he says of Micheletti’s move. “They have to sit down and start talking again. They need to stop making dire statements that the agreement is dead,” he blurts out against Zelaya. “We’re disappointed that both sides are not following this very clear path which has been laid out in this accord.”

He confirms for certain that Washington is giving technical assistance for the November 29 elections, which will continue as long as “the paties respect and implement this accord, step by step.”

And Pablo Ordaz, a correspondent in Tegucigalpa for the Madrid daily El País describes how the coup has changed the lives of one family. Below is my translation of his article for November 7.

Ángel David’s life, which hadn’t been good, began to get worse

Angel David and his mother show scar from police gunshot wound. Photo from El Pais.

TEGUCIGALPA, Nov. 5, 2009 — Since before the coup, Ángel David has lived in this neighborhood in Tegucigalpa where the only green, level ground is in the cemetery, so the kids take advantage of a hole in the wall to play soccer or hide-and-seek among their grandparents’ graves. Ángel David’s outlook wasn’t very promising. He shared eight square meters in a wooden shanty with his father, an out-of-work gardener, his mother, newly pregnant with her fifth child, and his brothers, the oldest 16 and the youngest two. They hadn’t had a bathroom since the last storm washed it down the hill, but they did have electricity and a telephone, a good upbringing and miraculously clean clothes.

But the coup came along and Ángel David’s life, which hadn’t been good, began to get worse. His country, the second poorest in Latin America, became the object of sanctions by the international community and its 70 percent poor (40 percent getting by on less than a dollar a day) became even more helpless. Ángel David’s father found ever less work. His mother, ever less money to juggle. And he, ever fewer hours in school. As though that were not enough, on the days when Roberto Micheletti’s government declared a curfew, they all had to take off running for fear of the police. They got home on time every day, until September 21.

On that day a rumor spread throughout Honduras that President Manuel Zelaya had managed to return in secret to his country. To celebrate, his supporters called for rallies in different areas of Tegucigalpa and Ángel David’s father decided to attend the one in the February 21st Colonia, next to his own neighborhood. On the way home, as the hour of the curfew approached, they took a shortcut through an alley. They were startled by the noise of a motorcycle approaching them. They turned around. There were two policemen riding it. The one in back aimed at them.. Five shots were heard. Ángel David, 13 years old, fell to the ground. With a gunshot wound in his back.

A month and a half has gone by. The taxi driver makes his way into the June 23rd Colonia. The vehicle can hardly move along among the rocks — the only paved street is long gone — and for fear of the groups of boys hanging out on the corners. At a certain point we can’t go on by car. His mother, Nelly Rodríguez, invites us into her only room, which is orderly and clean, and proudly introduces her sons, who are well brought up and well dressed. Her account of what happened is exact and concise and it portrays with no embellishment the reality of Honduras since the coup. “My husband and my sons were walking along, and the police could see that there were two children, but even so they shot at them. The bullet injured his intestine, his colon, his spleen, his liver and part of his lung too. Show the gentleman the scar.”

Ángel David stands up obediently. He has the mark of the gunshot on his back and a large scar from the surgery. What did you feel at that moment? “Agony, sir.” And pain? “That too.” And did you lose consciousness? “Yes.” What is agony? “Thinking that you’re going to die.” And were you afraid? “Yes.” And did you cry? “No.”

Nelly Rodríguez continues her account. “They performed an emergency operation. He almost died. The operation lasted three hours and he was in a coma for about five days. Until finally he opened his eyes and began to talk to me. He had oxygen and many drugs that they gave him at the teaching hospital. But since they didn’t have all the drugs he needed, we had to buy them ourselves. They didn’t even have needles or adhesive tape or cotton. Not even plasma.”

What followed reveals the degree to which defenders of the coup have persecuted those who resist. “One day a public prosecutor came and told me, ‘Look, I work for the rights of minors and you are at risk of losing your children because it wasn’t the policeman who shot at him who is to blame for what happened to your son, it is you.’ She told me I was the guilty one.” Nelly begins to cry, a slow and quiet sobbing that is touching. The kids around her pay attention. “And she told me that while my son was in a coma, right there, by his bed. Yes. She told me the policeman wasn’t guilty, I was.” Nelly was threatened with the loss of her son until the organization COFADEH, which is concerned with the families of the detained and disappeared in Honduras, came to her assistance.

Ángel David’s story is one of hundreds of dramatic cases. According to UNICEF, “1,600 Hunduran children under the age of five have died since June 28, 2009, at the rate of 13 children a day.” Malnutrition and very poor attention to health conditions in the face of epidemics like haemorrhagic dengue are some of the causes. Every day, some 60 children are taken to the Tegucigalpa hospital afflicted with that disease. But there is no means of treating them. All of this in the midst of a wave of violence that leaves 14 dead every day and an endless number of illegal detentions.

It is true that life in Honduras before the coup was not good, but now it is worse. Right, Ángel David?

[San Antonio native David Holmes Morris is an army veteran, a language major, a retired printer, a sometime journalist, and a gay liberationist.]

  • For previous Rag Blog coverage of Honduras, go here.

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2 Responses to Surprise! : Betrayal in Honduras as ‘Golpistas’ Ignore Accord

  1. The toppling of Zelaya and an agreement for an expanded military presence in Columbia. Perhaps Zelays should have asked the folks in Iran if Mr Obama cares much about election fraud. As long as Obama can advance his political agenda from an event, (read Iran at the negotiating table) I dont think he cares much who gets thrown under the bus.

  2. Val Liveoak says:

    I am deeply concerned about the probability of continued violent repression on one hand and the temptation to respond violently on the other. The first article shows the Resistencia will likely promote a boycott of the elections, which seems their only way to express their outrage and disillusionment at the process. Is there a way that they can boycott the elections without violence? Will they forcibly resist the presence of polling places in their communities? Will they try to keep potential voters away by force?
    The US’ manipulations of the process and specifically the negotiations leading to the Tegucigalpa/San Jose accords belie any claims to support democracy, or even free and fair elections, since the only candidates will represent political parties of the elite who actively or passively supported the coup.
    As the third article shows, supporting the coup and the status quo in the 2nd poorest country in the hemisphere is a violent response, also–although the violence may hide behind legal fictions that allow police to shoot at fleeing families out after a curfew, or simply fail to provide necessary medical care to critically ill children.

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