miércoles, 1 de julio de 2009

A world upside down: My stance on Honduras' political crisis

Before last week, Honduras was nothing else and nothing more than some small country in Central America with a capital that carries a complicated name that always gave me trouble in my geography classes back in school “Tegucigalpa”. But soon we learned that Honduras is also another country were my president wants to spread his influence and so far, he was being successful at it. The country had already received a certain number of Cuban doctors and teachers and was on its way to pursue – illegally - a referendum that could open the gate to make some reforms to their country’ constitutions. The supposed reform was focused on soften the period- terms of the president, that are currently four years without right to reelection: one of the most limited term – period of Latin America – I think. We were no surprised to hear such news; they were way too familiar for us Venezuelans. But then, the news told us other stories as well, that for Venezuelans can sound a bit strange.

Then we learned that not only Zelaya’ next move was – theoretically speaking- illegal but that – here is where it comes the strange part – the congress, the prosecutor’ office, the Supreme Court and the military were strongly against those moves and they had no complex about speaking it out loud. For us Venezuelans, already used to see that whatever president Chavez’ does is the law and that even if its theoretically illegal then all the institutions available (from the Court, to the Electoral centre) will do all their best to make it “legal” and possible; this proof of the division of powers in a country like Honduras – I have to be honest – it simply shocked us.

Then Zelaya ordered the destitution of chief of the army: the General Romeo Vásquez Velázquez since he was not agree with Zelaya’ initiative. Then the Supreme Court ordered the restitution of the man to his charge. Then Zelaya refused to do so and continued on his way to make the illegal referendum. Then a military coup happened.

My common sense, my limited political knowledge, my democracy principles have always told me two things: one, to always distrust whatever is coming from the military side of the society; two, to always distrust a military coup since it breaks the democracy institucionality once and for all and leaves a lot of extra room for arbitrary moves. But I must confess that back on Sunday, I wasn’t sure if I should hear those couple of principles like I always do. First there was the obvious emotional side: Zelaya is one of many “Chavitos” (mini- Chavez) across Latin America and if in this world there are less “Chavitos” cheering the moves of his daddy across the International Community, then is better for us. Then, in the back of our heads, the Venezuelans are used to see a coup as a violent move, filled with casualties to regret. But in Honduras the president was simply taken to Costa Rica and there were no wounded or dead to regret. I did not see any soldier crashing against the presidential palace with a military tank like Chavez did in 1992. Plus, all the institutions in Honduras were actually cheering and giving a legal appearance to the coup: from the Supreme Court to the Congress.

Then, the strong reaction of the whole international community came. While everyone inside Honduras (putting Zelaya’ supporters aside) was happy; everyone outside Honduras was not. At first I got it: if any president openly supports a military coup outside his boarders, he can’t complain if a coup inside his boarders surprises him one day and takes him to Costa Rica. Deep inside, I think all presidents – and especially in a region like Latin America- sleep with the fear of being threatened by their armies one day. But the International Community reaction has been more than the concern of the presidents of the rest of the globe to see themselves in a similar situation.

That’s when my common sense definitely stopped making any sense to me: My president condemned the coup like it were genocide, forgetting the bloody coup attempt he leaded back in 1992 and that is now, under his command, cheered as a National Holiday. Zelaya’ speech at the UN Assembly was forced to be broadcasted (the infamous “cadenas” – “chains”) in all TV Channels and all Radio stations in Venezuela but we did not see the Honduras Congress naming Micheletti as their new president if it wasn’t for CNN and Globovision – the only opposition TV Channel available. And the rest of the International Community, the same ones who have not moved a finger when my president has done uncountable illegal moves that goes totally against democracy. The same International Community (I’m talking about the OAS here) that did not even sent a warning to Zelaya when he was trying to do whatever it pleased him disrespecting the rest of the institutions of his country. That same community was now incredible busy giving ultimatums to the new government of Honduras and condemning the coup as it were the most serious even that has ever threat a Latin American democracy. None of that makes any sense to me, especially if one of the main speakers of such community was someone like Raul Castro – not precisely a democratic leader.

That’s where my need to make a stance on the issue emerged. I will make such stance on six simple points:

1) I would like to start saying –just to avoid any confusion - which a military coup is always a risky and very undesirable way to get out of a certain crisis, because of the dangers that it represents to the stability of any political system, especially a democratic one. A friend of mine said that in Honduras they could have wait for the Congress or the Supreme Court to activate their mechanism designed in the laws to put out of office a president that represents a threat to democracy. My friend is probably right.

>2) However, it is important to say that a civilian can cause as much or even more damage to a democratic system than a soldier. Civil actions are no better than military actions if they goes against the precepts of the democracy. And in an ideal world, the International Community should give equal condemnation to any actions that threatens democracy, doesn’t matter where it is comes from.

3) Many have already said this and I'm agree. What happensed in Honduras proved how inconvenient a presidential system can be, except maybe for United States. In most Latin American countries, the political system allows a president to carry on his shoulders the weight of the legitimacy of such system. This means that if the president is missing for any reason, the congress and the rest of the institutions are not politically strong enough to fill the empty space without falling in a crisis. In exchange, a prime minister in a parliamentary system can be easily removed of his office and the country remains stable, at least more than in presidential systems.

4) The military coup in Honduras was probably motivated by the fear of a strong Venezuelan – or more likely, Chavez – intervention of the country. That fear was justified. And as Venezuelan, I’m very ashamed of that. I’m also ashamed, again, of the attitude of the OAS that has never condemn Venezuelan intervention on many Latin American countries but when a “Chavito” is under threat, the run to defend him like they never defend anything before.

5) The solution of this crisis must be decided via the institutions of Honduras and the people of that country. Not via Chavez, not via OAS, not via any of us. It is hard to imagine a scenery were Zelaya can return to power, and even if he does, his government and his project can’t return to be what they were before. If Zelaya returns to his country, despite if we like or not, he will be judged – despite if we think that it’s fair or not – and the verdict seems to be already known.

6) Although media can’t justify any end, it is true that in a very particular and not politically correct way, Honduras has taught everyone and especially the Venezuelans a lesson we forgot long time ago, in the words of an Honduras’ congress-woman and that it remind us of Kennedy: “no man is above the Constitution and the laws”.

PS: As I hope this blog together with this entry, shows: after 10 years of seeing how the politically correct can lead to non politically correct moves that constantly threatens my civil rights and my freedom, I’m tired of being politically correct.

2 comentarios:

  1. I'm personally applauding the Hondurans for having defended their constitution. From what I've read, the military was ordered by their Congress or Supreme Court to stop Zelaya and they did. Granted, it would've been nice to have done it via the legal route your friend described (even though the military's coup was legal, according to what I've read), Zelaya probably would have been undeterred. We'll now see if the military means what it said. All signs, thus far, from the Honduran press I've been reading point to yes.

  2. This is a very good blog. Now, when I was about your age, we in the United States removed President Nixon from office in a manner very similar to Zelaya. Actually Nixon resigned; else he would have been impeached, tried and possibly imprisoned. But when he resigned, he and his family were immediately put on a plane to their home in California, Gerald Ford was sworn in as President and it was all over in a couple of days. (The US has also impeached two other presidents who were both later acquitted of their charges. This method of challenging bad officials is not new.) The charges against Zelaya are much more serious than what Nixon did, so the idea of removing this “bad actor” should not be that disturbing to us in the US. This is exactly like what we did in the 70’s. Now back then, Nixon was well-liked among world leaders and many expressed their regrets on seeing him removed, however they all accepted Ford immediately as the new President and showed respect for our system of government. I just wish the US had done the same in return right now. The Government of Honduras deserves more respect than it has been given.


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