Saturday, September 26, 2009

Letter From Honduras

A person I know recently sent me an e-mail from Tegucigalpa, the capitol of Honduras. However frustrated I may get with events in this country, it was a stark reminder that it really doesn't get much better than we have it. In case you're not aware of the situation there, here is a recent article on the events, and here is an excerpt that gets at the crux of the issue:
Armed soldiers toppled Zelaya and sent him into exile in his pyjamas on June 28 after the supreme court endorsed charges of treason and abuse of authority against the leader for repeatedly ignoring court orders to drop plans for a referendum on whether the constitution should be rewritten.
In short, when he tried by referendum to change the constitution, the military threw him out of office and out of the country. He later snuck back in, and is currently holed up in the Brazilian Embassy. Had Bush tried to re-write the electoral rules of our constitution, to be approved by referendum, I hope the military would have thrown him out of office as well. Why Obama and the US are supporting this guy is beyond me.
Recently experienced my first curfew. The city of Tegucigalpa was
shut down for two days. First 24 hours, power was off most of the
time. Using a fork as a sconce, and birthday candles for light, I
read. My computer could play music, so I was pretty set up. Last few
days, curfew has run from 6 pm to 6 am. Thing is, there is no way to
know when/if curfew will be made full time again.

I can't believe how casually 7.3 mm people's liberty is supended here.
The day before yest, I went to buy some food in a 6 hour suspension
of the curfew. The supermarket was so packed I wouldn't have had time
to pay for the food that I could select from what was left. So I went
from neighborhood market to market looking for stuff. Was pretty
successful, and now have enough calories to make it through a week or
so. But as I finished up shopping, I saw everyone was looking down
the street, and I followed their gaze. Some supporters of the
ex-pres, so-called Melistas, had been streaming by, amassing about 200
yards from my apartment. So the riot police were following them,
about 100 or so. I moved towards my place, but everyone else, not
just melistas, moved towards the police. Tear gas was fired off and
the wind, about 10 knots, was moving my way. Just a little of that
stuff is a lot. My eyes were red, my chest twitched, and twitched for
24 hours. But some were trying to kick the cans back towards the
police, which was very dumb. I bet they are miserable right now.

Here, laborers are paid daily because they need the money to eat. No
work, no food. Many other people have no refrigeration, so expect to
be able to buy perishable food every day. Day before yest, everyone's
cars were breaking down due to overheating in traffic jams, making
jams much worse. (No one fixes a car until it breaks down here.)

The angry people look like junkies. Their skin is white, their eyes
are dilated. I can sense at a glance that if they move my way, the
only smart thing to do is run.

The riot police are very restrained in my view. Confronted by similar
violence, American police would crush a crowd like that. The rioters
are mainly males aged 16 to 22 or so. Stupid kids.

Here, the Army provided security to the president, so if the courts
wanted to arrest him, which they did want to do, the army has to be
involved. Otherwise, the police and the army are going to have a
shoot out. So it's not really honest to say that it was a military
coup. The current president was elected by the congress and I don't
believe he has a history of involvement with the military. He
certainly did not establish himself, and clearly has no intention of
remaining president past scheduled elections in November.

Mel Zalaya is an asshole, and the US giving hope that he will be
restored protracts the problems here. The poor believe that if they
stir up trouble, eventually the US will use force to reestablish
Zalaya. I spend a lot of time telling people that will never happen.
(It's not the US's fault, of course. But the Obama administration has
taken a badly wrong position on this situation.) On Zalaya, what kind
of patriot goes from country to country encouraging other govt's to
cut off humanitarian aid to his country? Encourages his own
supporters to destroy the property of his fellow citizens? He was
undeniably taking steps to subvert the constitution by attempting to
be reelected. So the country was confronted with a choice of how much
to subvert the constitution, not if to subvert it. I think they made
an OK choice though not exactly what I would have done.

Hope you're well out there, enjoying a break in the heat. Take a swig
of stable government and practical liberty for me.
No kidding.


splord said...

Here in Costa Rica (which is where the Honduran military dropped Zalaya) there are mixed feelings about the situation in Honduras.

There are those who support Zalaya (such as President Arias) and wish to see him reinstated. Their take on it is that Zalaya was going through the correct process for altering the nation's constitution, and that he would have left office in November no matter the results of the referendum -- and then work on being re-elected later.

And there are many who agree with your correspondent.

The truth of the matter probably lies -- as usual -- somewhere in the middle.

Hector said...

I'd like to believe that Bob...but this is not the case. This issue is surrounded by extremism and polarization. There is no golden mean here, only interpretations.

Tucker said...

Pardon my snark, but if this was NOT a military coup, then what would a military coup in Honduras look like?

I could also point out that we probably wouldn't arrest someone for attempting to pass an amendment to the constitution to allow someone to run for a third term as president, let alone deport them.

Just sayin'

Lockwood said...

As the correspondent points out, the legal system, up to and including the supreme court, had instructed Zalaya to stop trying to change the constitution; he refused. Since in Honduras, the military provides security for the president (as opposed to the Secret service here), the military cooperating with law enforcement was necessary step to arrest him. Which was what they were trying to do when he fled; he wasn't deported.

Actually, you're probably right in that a US president trying to pass an amendment to the constitution through referendum probably wouldn't be arrested; he'd be impeached first. Congress would determine punitive measures which might or might not include jail time, though I doubt it.

To answer your first question last, a military coup would involve some portion of the military and its leaders, without the sanction of either the legislative or judicial branches, attempting to force a change in the executive branch leadership. In this case, the military was cooperating with those two branches.