I could actually understand the Obama Administration trying to get involved in the Honduran situation — even if they were really on the wrong track — back in the summer. But it’s January 8th, the elections have come and gone, and a new, duly elected president will take office in just nineteen days. The Administration hasn’t been able to accomplish anything that they’ve set out to do yet in Honduras — other than look like fools — in the six months of the Micheletti “interregnum,” so why would they want to step into this minefield again? There is nothing that they would like to accomplish that they could accomplish before January 27, so why try anything, why say anything?
QUESTION: Well, I just want one on Honduras. I mean, isn’t it a little besides the point now? I mean, you’re going to kind of implement the San Jose process. You already have a president-elect. You have an inauguration coming up. You’ve already pretty much said that you’re going to accept and deal with the new government. So what is this kind of symbolic box-checking of making sure that you implement the San Jose Accords before the new government —
(Assistant Secretary Phillip) CROWLEY: Well, I don’t think it’s symbolic at all. I mean, obviously, what happened back in June represents a breach in the heart of Honduran society, and to some extent that tension is still there. So yes, you’re right; there is a new government that will be installed on January 27th. The real question is: Can that government be a vehicle through which you begin a healing process and you have a situation where the Honduran people can unite behind this new government? That is our primary effort here: How do we help Honduras move forward and to overcome the clear tension that resulted in the actions taken last June?
A breach in the heart of Honduran society? Honduras held its presidential election, on the previously-scheduled date, and, with significantly higher turnout than occurred in the 2005 electing won by Manuel Zelaya, Hondurans voted for “Pepe” Lobo, the candidate of the major center-right party, Partido Nacional, by a significant majority. Former President Zelaya’s former party, Partido Liberal, came in second, while the Zeyalista candidate received a whopping 1.7% of the votes.
The Honduran Supreme Court had voted unanimously to depose Mr Zelaya, and the Honduran Congress had voted to do the same, 125-3; Mr Zelaya’s party held the congressional majority at the time.
Of course, there were the so-called San Jose Accords, calling for the Congress to vote on the restoration of deposed President Zelaya:
National Congress of Honduras rejects the restitution of Sr. José Manuel Zelaya Rosales
The legislative body reaffirms its support for the constitutional succession that brought Roberto Micheletti Bain to the Presidency
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, 02 December, 2009 – With a vote of 111 in favor and 14 against, the National Congress of Honduras today overwhelmingly rejected the restitution of Mr. José Manuel Zelaya Rosales to the presidency of the Republic. Also, Congress passed a motion supporting the succession leading to the constitutional presidency of Mr. Roberto Micheletti Bain. Members in turn strongly and affirmatively expressed of the permanence of President Micheletti in office until January 2010, confirming Decree 141-2009, with 111 votes for and 14 against. The president-elect of the Republic, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo will take office on January 27, when the new President of Congress will place the presidential sash.
In making that decision, Congress fulfills the responsibility that fell on the legislative body under section five of the Agreement Tegucigalpa / San José, which was signed last October 30 by representatives of President Micheletti Bain and Mr. Zelaya Rosales. As stipulated in paragraph five, the Congress “To achieve reconciliation and to strengthen democracy, in the spirit of the theme of the proposed agreement of San José, both negotiating committees have decided to respectfully submit that the National Congress, as an institutional expression of popular sovereignty, exercising its powers, in consultation with the instances that it deems appropriate such as the Supreme Court of Justice and in accordance with the law, resolve as appropriate in respect “to roll back the ownership of Executive Power to its previous status as at 28 June, until the conclusion of the current governmental period on 27 January 2010”. Contrary to public statements from various sectors, the agreement makes no type of recommendation with regard to due result of this decision, it only required that the same was done.
“For the second time, this Congress has spoken strongly that Mr. Zelaya Rosales not be restored to the presidency. For the second time, the congressmen elected by the Honduran people have raised their voices in defense of our constitution and democratic system of government. There will not be a third time. We demand that the international community respect the final decision of this legislative body, where the popular sovereignty of our people resides,” said José Alfredo Saavedra, President of the National Congress and member of the Liberal Party.
Before making its decision, Congress sought views on the legality of the possible return of Mr. Zelaya Rosales from several entities of the government of Honduras. As dictated by the Tegucigalpa / San José Agreement, the Supreme Court of Justice, the Solicitor General’s Office, the Commissioner Human Rights, and the Attorney General, presented reports.
These opinions and consultations for the consideration of the Honduran congress were made available to members of Congress, even though these were not binding on its final decision.
The decision against the return of Mr. Zelaya Rosales to the presidency, was overwhelmingly supported by members from all political parties represented in Congress.
“This Congress has fulfilled its responsibility under the Agreement Tegucigalpa / San José in a transparent and democratic manner. We call on all of the international community and regional bodies, including the Organization of American States, to respect our sovereignty. Having elected a new president, all Hondurans have already begun the process of national unity and reconciliation. Those seeking to continue the controversy and to perpetuate the political crisis in our country are obsessed with the past and personal agendas and not the welfare of our country,” added Ramón Velásquez Nazar, Vice President of Congress and member of the Christian Democratic Party of Honduras.
The Honduras National Congress consists of 128 deputies who represent 5 political parties. Deputies are elected every four years by the Honduran people for a period of four years.
The clear majority of the people of Honduras approved deposing President Zelaya, as is evidenced by the votes they cast in a free and fair election, but our own State Department can’t seem to see that. Then, the Congress, which still had a majority of members from Mr Zelaya’s former party, voted 111 to 14, not to restore the deposed president. Just how much more evidence does our State Department need that there is no “breach in the heart of Honduran society,” at least, not among Hondurans? That there may be a breach in the heart of some State Department desk jockeys I readily concede. Back to Secretary Crowley’s briefing:
QUESTION: Well, but the tension was from Zelaya’s rule and the people that wanted him back in versus the people that –
MR. CROWLEY: That’s true. By the same token, our interest here is in seeing a true restoration of constitutional and democratic rule, and to see Honduras advance as a stable and contributing member of the international community.
If that is our interest, then we have already seen it met: a free and democratic election was held, and the Honduran constitution was upheld. If Honduras still lags “as a stable and contributing member of the international community,” it isn’t because of the actions of the people of Honduras, but of the reactions of other countries. That Hugo Chavez is upset is understandable, and will not change; that the United States government is standing in the way is unpardonable.
MR. CROWLEY: And, oh, by the way, we do have some decisions to make in the future about the future nature of our relationship. As we said back in November, the election was a step forward. We felt that the results did reflect the will of the Honduran people. That said, the election by itself was not enough to – we have some decisions to make in terms of the nature of our relationship, the nature of assistance in the future.
So there are still steps that Honduras has to take, and we are encouraged by comments by President-elect Lobo, but we are there to continue to move this process forward not only to get to January 27, but most importantly, to see that government advance once it’s in office.
You know, we deal with governments all the time that are not “reflections of the will” of their people, whose “elections” are as one-sided as they get, yet we don’t seem to have “some decisions to make in terms of the nature of our relationship.” Yet Honduras has a free and fair election, one which our own State Department has conceded reflects the will of the people of Honduras, but it’s just not quite good enough for President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
QUESTION: How – I mean, I understand about moving forward, but how by undoing what you did – not what you did, but what was done in Honduras at the absolute last minute right before the inauguration of this new president that you – by this new president repairs the constitutional breach that took place? And why would you need to reevaluate what kind of relationship you need with Honduras going forward? This was all about the interim government and the former deposed government. And why would you punish this new government for what happened before that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, remember, not only do we support a government of national unity that reflects all of the components —
QUESTION: For a day or a couple of days?
MR. CROWLEY: Right.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, no – we support the formation of a national unity government that represents broad interests in Honduras. But most importantly, you need to have this truth commission that is part of a healing process that has to occur if Honduras is going to advance. So it is – there are a number of steps in the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accords. Some of them have been implemented, but not all, and this continues to demonstrate our commitment to the people of Honduras and to the future relationship between the United States and Honduras. But there are definitely – Craig is there to communicate clearly to a variety of parties that there are still things that Honduras has to do.
I’m sorry, but this is utter lunacy. Whatever problem the Obama Administration saw with Honduras has already been solved. What President Obama and his minions wanted to do, the restoration of Señor Zelaya, they could not get done in the five months between him being removed from power and the election, or in the 1½ months since the election; the chances that the Administration can get Honduras to knuckle under to our will in the nineteen days before President-elect Lobo receives the Presidential Sash are vanishingly small. At this point, there is no point in wasting time and money and effort on something which will not succeed, would not accomplish anything of value if it did succeed, and will only further anger the people of Honduras if we persist.
We still have another three years and twelve days of the Obama Administration and its naïve foreign policy. I sure hope that in that three years and twelve days, some of these noble idealists will grow up, will become adults. Right now, their pitiful performance on foreign policy in Latin America isn’t exactly encouraging.