Honduras : Micheletti Becoming ‘Second Pinochet’?

‘Congressman for Life’ Roberto Micheletti. Art by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff / IndyBay.

Honduran coup consolidating power:
Micheletti named ‘Congressman for Life’

By David Holmes Morris / The Rag Blog / January 17, 2010

As violent repression continues, the powers that be in Honduras have taken symbolic and substantive steps to consolidate the coup d’état that deposed President Manuel Zelaya last June 28.

The unicameral legislature has voted to name de facto president Roberto Micheletti congressman for life, thus granting him immunity forever from prosecution for crimes committed in connection with the coup. Micheletti was president of the legislature at the time that body named him to replace Zelaya in an act defenders of the coup insist was a constitutional presidential succession.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said the Honduran legislature has thus made Micheletti a “second Pinochet.” Augusto Pinochet, the bloody dictator who ruled Chile after the coup of 1973, had himself declared “senator for life” in 1989.

The legislature left consideration of the question of a general amnesty for actions taken in relation to the coup to the incoming government, thus avoiding the question of legal action against Zelaya for his alleged crimes, which the golpistas claim as justification for deposing him.

Meanwhile, the Honduran National Association of Industrialists held a private ceremony recently at the home of wealthy businessman Adolfo Facussé to honor Micheletti as a “true patriot” and “the first hero of Honduras in the 21st century.” As he accepted the plaque the group presented him, Micheletti told the audience, which included General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez and other military commanders, that he had never doubted he had the support of the armed forces and the police but “most importantly, God was with us.”

Vásquez Velásquez, head of the joint chiefs of staff, led the group of soldiers that abducted Zelaya on June 28 and delivered him to the airplane that flew him to Costa Rica. And Adolfo Facussé is widely thought to have instigated the coup and to have helped finance it. He and other members of the Honduran oligarchy are reported to have distributed sizeable cash payments to military commanders and other government officials immediately before Zelaya was kidnapped.

The legislature has further guaranteed Micheletti’s safety by providing personal body guards from the armed forces or the national police or, if government personnel become unavailable, from private security firms, for the rest of his life. Micheletti’s family will also have body guards. Some 50 other members of the golpista government will be given similar protection, including the attorney general, the six top commanding officers of the armed forces, 17 ministers of the Micheletti regime and their 17 vice-ministers, and the president of the supreme court, the body that provided the legal pretext for the coup.

Despite pressure from inside Honduras and outside the country, Micheletti has refused to relinquish office until January 27, when the legitimate president’s term officially ends and President-elect Porfirio Lobo takes office. In the meantime, Manuel Zelaya, the constitutionally elected president, remains in the Brazilian embassy, where he has been in refuge since entering the country secretly last September. Zelaya has rejected offers of political asylum, insisting he be treated as the legitimate head of the government.

The United States, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama and Peru are the only countries in the world so far to pledge to recognize the Lobo presidency as legitimate.

In San Pedro Sula, the country’s second largest city, a new street leading to a branch of the National Autonomous University has been named Roberto Micheletti Boulevard.

In other actions, the legislature has voted to withdraw the country from the Alternativa Bolivariana de las Américas (ALBA – The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas), proponents of the move arguing that it violates the principles of self-determination and non-intervention. Honduras’s membership in the regional affiliation was proposed by Zelaya and was initially approved by the legislature, including then legislative president Roberto Micheletti, but was attacked by conservatives adamantly opposed to the leftist governments of Latin America making up ALBA and particularly to the Venezuelan government and President Hugo Chávez, bête noire of the Honduran right. Membership in ALBA was one of the factors that brought about the coup.

Tiempo, the only mainstream newspaper in the country opposed to the golpista government, says withdrawal from ALBA will cost the country 100 million dollars in bonds purchased by Venezuela from the Honduran National Bank of Agricultural Development, 100 tractors, money to teach literacy, technical support for development of a government television channel, scholarships for medical training and funds to establish enterprises to produce generic drug.

And the minimum wage for Honduran workers, another sore point for the right, appears likely to remain at the level established in January 2009 when a 60 percent increase sponsored by Zelaya took effect, at 5,500 lempiras a month, about 290 U.S. dollars, for urban workers, and 4,055 lempiras, or $215.00 , for rural workers. After negotiations between union leaders and business owners broke down last week, the final decision will be left to the incoming president, Porfirio Lobo, who is more likely to decree a reduction than an increase. The unions had initially proposed a 30 percent increase.

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

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3 Responses to Honduras : Micheletti Becoming ‘Second Pinochet’?

  1. Anonymous says:

    I believe that Honduras has become a laboratory for the Right backlash against the trend in Latin America away from US sponsored neoliberalism. In countries where the collection of taxes is sporadic, and inequitable, and profit-taking by private enterprise undermines even survival of the poor, it makes sense for governments to intervene and even to own the companies that provide many basic services and products.
    Neoliberals call this socialism, and it is–but for those struggling to survive in an environment of wage reductions, loss of jobs and decreases of human services, it makes alot of sense.
    Hmmm…will that mean that even in the US, there will be more pressure for government ownership of, say, health insurance?
    If Honduras is a laboratory for the backlash then look out US! How unlikely is it that the methods applied in Honduras will come home to us?
    We have seen that a number of the tactics of counterinsurgency taught to Latin American military officers at the School of the Americas and other sites have been applied to the US, especially after 9/11. The efforts of the Right to consolidate power in Honduras may seem a more brutal and naked use of force, but consider how it has been applauded and propogandized by the US Establishment, and sadly, acquiesed to by the Obama administration.

  2. Anonymous says:

    If the golpistas and their retinue constitute a second Pinochet regime, why did they put the President on a plane to a nice place like Costa Rica instead of suiciding him like they did to President Allende?

    We tend to look at coups in LA as if all the countries there are the same and they are not. There are as many differences between Chile and Honduras as between the US and Haiti.

    If I was a property owner in Honduras, I would probably not oppose removing the President for trying to bypass the constitutional restriction on reelection, considering his attachment to Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, whose redistributive efforts do not appear to be limited to large landholders.

    If you have nothing those efforts might seem acceptable;less so if you do.

    Comparing the golpistas to Pinochet is akin to comparing Chavez to Castro; there is a huge gulf between the actions of the two.

  3. David Morris says:

    Of course there is a world of difference between Honduras and Chile, between the two coups and between the politcal histories leading up to them, not to mention the level of violence and brutality resulting from them. But it was Evo Morales who made the comparison, a better authority than me on Latin America.

    And contrary to what the Honduran right and a lot of the media here persist in saying, Zelaya wasn’t attempting to perpetuate his rule — he was proposing a referendum on whether a vote should be held on the question of forming an assembly to write a new constitution. He would have been long out of office by the time such an assembly might be formed.

    Lumping all Latin American leftist and left-leaning presidents together as power hungry caudillos is as serious an error as lumping the Honduran and Chilean coups together.

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