Tuesday, October 27, 2009

WNU #1009: Honduran Talks Stall, Election in Doubt

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1009, October 25, 2009

1. Honduras: Talks Stall, Election in Doubt
2. Honduras: Poll Shows Growing Opposition to Coup
3. Honduras: Was the Coup Legal?
4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba

ISSN#: 1084‑922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com . It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/

*1. Honduras: Talks Stall, Election in Doubt
On Oct. 23 negotiators for deposed Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales gave up on talks to end a four-month political crisis in Honduras. The negotiations had been “worn down” by the intransigence of de facto president Roberto Micheletti Bain’s government, Zelaya representative Mayra Mejía announced in Tegucigalpa.

Zelaya had already given up key points in the talks, which began on Oct. 7 with the support of the Organization of American States (OAS). His concessions included acceptance of a government of national reconciliation and the renunciation of calls for a national constituent assembly to rewrite the 1982 Constitution, a demand still strongly supported by grassroots organizations. But Micheletti’s representatives refused to negotiate seriously on Zelaya’s return to office before the scheduled Nov. 29 general elections, according to Zelaya’s representatives. Zelaya, who was deposed by a military coup on June 28, ends his four-year term on Jan. 27.

The de facto government’s intransigence was “a second coup d’état,” Zelaya said in an interview with the British network BBC on Oct. 25. He also charged that the military was subjecting him to “psychological torture” by playing loud music through the night outside the Brazilian embassy, where the deposed president has been living since slipping back into the country on Sept. 21. Supporters say the soldiers have also been shining stadium lights into the building. But in a interview with opposition radio station Radio Globo the same day, Zelaya said he still expected a solution: "I cannot give details of how this will be achieved, but Honduras cannot remain in this situation.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 10/24/09 from AFP, DPA, Reuters; Europa Press 10/25/09 via Yahoo; Bloomberg 10/23/09; Xinhua 10/26/09)

The de facto government apparently hopes to end the crisis by getting the US to recognize the results of the November elections. There is pressure for this in US governing circles. In an op-ed in the Washington Post on Oct. 17, former US secretary of state James A. Baker III (1989-1992) argued that “a free and fair election in Honduras would go a long way toward resolving the constitutional crisis there.” The US government should support the elections, he said, just as the administration of President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) backed elections in Nicaragua under the leftist Sandinista government in 1990. (WP 10/17/09)

However, on Oct. 23, the Carter Center—an influential election-monitoring organization founded by former US president Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)—indicated that it wouldn’t observe the November elections unless the coup was reversed. (LJ 10/24/09 from AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Honduran opponents of the coup are calling for an election boycott. Independent presidential candidate Carlos H. Reyes and legislative deputy César Ham, presidential candidate of the small leftist Democratic Unification (UD), announced on Sept. 9 that they would refuse to participate in elections held under the coup regime [see Update #1004]. Most candidates of the two traditional parties, the National Party (PN) and the Liberal Party (PL), continue to campaign, but on Oct. 24 some 300 Liberal candidates for the National Congress and municipal posts, announced that they would boycott the election. Both Zelaya and Micheletti are members of the generally conservative PL.

The Nov. 29 elections are mandated to fill 2,896 positions, including the presidency, all 128 deputies in the National Congress, 20 deputies to represent Honduras in the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), 298 mayors and some 2,000 municipal officials. (El Tiempo (San Pedro Sula) 10/24/09)

*2. Honduras: Poll Shows Growing Opposition to Coup
On Oct. 23 the Washington, DC-based polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner released the results of a survey involving face-to-face interviews held Oct. 9-13 with 621 randomly selected Hondurans; the firm didn’t give the margin of error. According to the survey, 60% of Hondurans disapproved of the June 28 removal of President Manuel Zelaya from office, while only 38% approved. Some 19% rated Zelaya’s performance in office as “excellent” and another 48% as “good”; the poll showed 57% personally disapproving of Roberto Micheletti, de facto president since Zelaya’s overthrow, while 28% approved.

The pretext for the coup was a claim that Zelaya’s purpose in calling for a constituent assembly was to end the Constitution’s ban on second terms for presidents. According to the survey, Hondurans favor allowing re-election by a solid 55% to 43%, while 54% support holding a constituent assembly as a solution to the current crisis, with 43% opposed. While the Honduran right depicts Zelaya’s supporters as backers of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez Frías, only 10% of Hondurans feel “warm” towards Chávez, while 83% have a negative impression, according to the survey. (Greenberg press release 10/23/09; Honduras Coup 2009 blog 10/24/09; Bloomberg 10/23/09)

The Greenberg poll, although based on a relatively small sampling, gives results similar to those from the two other polls published since the coup: a survey by the Costa Rican-based CID Gallup firm in early July and a poll the Tegucigalpa firm Consultants in Investigation of Markets and Public Opinion (COIMER & OP) conducted Aug. 23-29. The July CID Gallup survey showed a plurality of 46% opposing the coup, while the August COIMER & OP poll showed 52.7% against Zelaya’s removal, with only 17.4% supporting it (the rest didn’t answer). If the surveys are correct, opposition to the coup has grown steadily over the past four months, with a large majority now rejecting Zelaya’s removal. (Daily Kos 7/12/09; Narco News 10/6/09; Honduras Coup 2009 blog 10/7/09)

The coup regime regularly claims broad support. At the beginning of October, de facto president Micheletti told the ACAN-EFE news service that polls his government had taken showed that “87%, 90% say they are in agreement with” a state of siege he declared at the end of September. (ACAN-EFE 10/2/09) There are no reports indicating that the de facto government ever made these polls public.

*3. Honduras: Was the Coup Legal?
A number of legal experts have challenged an August report by the US Law Library of Congress claiming that the June 28 overthrow of Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was in accordance with Honduras’ 1982 Constitution. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) requested the report from the library and released it on Sept. 24, incorrectly attributing it to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS). It has been cited regularly since then by US supporters of the de facto Honduran government.

Critics of the 10-page report include some 13 deputies from the Honduran National Congress. In an Oct. 12 letter to the US Congress, the legislators said the study “is contradictory and suffers from a series of errors and biases that disqualify it as a correct and objective analysis of what has happened in our country.” They also noted that the only legal expert consulted by the study’s author, Senior Foreign Law Specialist Norma C. Gutierrez, was former Supreme Court justice Guillermo Pérez-Cadalso Arias, a coup supporter “who in Honduras is not considered an academic authority on the subject of constitutional law.” In an Oct. 22 opinion piece on the Forbes magazine website, Argentine attorney Viviana Krsticevic and Juan Méndez, a former president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, CIDH in Spanish), dismissed the report’s “[d]ubious legal reasoning” and its “thinly sourced analysis” that “gets many…basic facts wrong.”

The report argues that although the Constitution only gives the Honduran Congress the power to “disapprove” of a president, the legislators can interpret the Constitution to extend this power to removing the president from office. The report ignores a May 7, 2003 Honduran Supreme Court ruling that Congress cannot interpret the Constitution. The report’s arguments doesn't pass the "straight-face test," Notre Dame University law professor Doug Cassel said at an Oct. 22 briefing at Capitol Hill in DC. The nonprofit Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) had organized a meeting with the Law Library of Congress for that morning to discuss the report, but author Gutierrez and her assistant became "suddenly unavailable" the night before, according to WOLA’s Vicki Gass. At the meeting, the Law Library representatives agreed to produce a “frequently asked questions” document, Gass said, but not a retraction. (Schock press release 9/24/09; letter from Honduran deputies 10/12/09; Forbes 10/22/09; Honduras Coup 2009 10/16/09; Inter Press Service 10/22/09)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba

Community on the Airwaves: End to Dictatorship Media Law in Argentina

Presidential Elections in Uruguay: Former Guerrilla vs Neoliberal

The Neoliberal Crusade For Resources on Indigenous Lands in the Peruvian Amazon

Peru: Gov't Seeks Legal Shield for Security Forces

Colombia: Sexual Violence as Weapon of War

Colombian vice president investigated over paramilitary ties

Honduras: Zelaya's Delegates Urge OAS to Unblock Talks

The Plot Thickens: Honduran Coup Regime and Landowning Elites Enlist the Support of Foreign Paramilitaries

US State Department Officials Signal Moves Towards Recognizing November Elections in Honduras

Nickel for Your Life: Q'eqchi' Communities Take on Mining Companies in Guatemala

The Truth Under the Earth: The Relationship Between Genocide and Femicide in Guatemala

Guatemala intercepts narco-sub in 10-ton coke haul

Mexican Electrical Workers Union Fights for Its Life

Chronicle of a Tormenta Electrica, I

Chronicle of a Tormenta Electrica, II

Mexico's Union Bust Reveals Flaws in NAFTA

Justice Department nets 300 in raids on Michoacán's bloody "Familia"

Latest Chapter in the Case of the Cuban Five: U.S. Justice as a Political Weapon

Terrorist released from immigration custody (it's OK, he's Cuban)

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