Category Archives: Latin America

Thoughts on the Election in Honduras

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[Image via National Democratic Institute]

Despite the attempts by Zelaya’s supporters to derail the election–including calling for a boycott and setting explosive devices–the conservative National party candidate Porfirio Lobo has defeated his rivals by receiving close to 56 percent of the vote. Liberal Party candidate Elvin Santos received 30 percent. Zelaya’s attempt to reduce voter turnout appears to have failed.

Turnout was higher than expected but there is some discrepancy in the number of voters who participated. As reported by Americas Quarterly, “[t]he electoral tribunal reported a 61.3 percent voter turnout rate while Hagamos Democracia, which conducted the electoral tribunal’s quick count, noted that 47.6 percent of Hondurans voted.”

While a Heritage Foundation report notes, “the widespread resistance threatened by Zelaya’s supporters was mainly a campaign of disinformation” and includes the following statement:

Voting stations were accessible to all, adequately supplied with carefully controlled voting materials and fully staffed and supported by national observers from participating political parties. International observers witnessed no voter intimidation by any group, individual, or party. Other incidents reported to observers, such as late openings and locked voting stations, were quickly resolved and did not significantly disrupt the voting process.

The Frente Nacional de la Resistencia disputes these accounts:

With complete satisfaction we announce to the Honduran People and the international community that the electoral farce set up by the dictatorship regime has been absolutely defeated due to the low turn-out of voters at the poll sites, to the extent that the Supreme Electoral Tribune had to prolong the poll another hour until 5 p.m.

You don’t need glasses to see what is in front of your eyes. Nation-wide monitoring by our organization proved that the level of abstention during the process is at least of 60-75% percent, which is the highest in our national history, and implies that only a maximum of 30 – 35% of registered voters voted.

The United States, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Colombia, Israel, Japan and Germany say they would recognize the results. I expect more countries will soon follow suit. While Zelaya’s foreign supporters–Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela–claim they will not. The Spanish government, will “neither recognize nor ignore” the results of the election. The Miami Herald notes:

The deposed leader finds himself in a precarious position. Just five months ago, world leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, stood behind Zelaya, condemning Honduras for his ouster and calling for his return.

Now, regional leaders who once cut off talks with Honduras’s defacto government, offered support for the newly elected government. Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said he would talk to other Ibero-American countries to recognize the future Honduran government, according to the Associated Press.

Mary O’Grady (WSJ), who has provided some of the best coverage of developments in Honduras opines:

The losers in this drama also include Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Spain, which all did their level best to block the election. Egged on by their zeal, militants inside Honduras took to exploding small bombs around the country in the weeks leading to the vote. They hoped that terror might damp turnout and delegitimize the process. They failed. Sunday’s civic participation appeared to be at least as good as it was in the last presidential election. Some polling stations reportedly even ran short, for a time, of the indelible ink used to mark voter pinkies…

[T]he leftist claims that Honduras could not hold fair elections flew in the face of the facts. First, the candidates were chosen in November 2008 primaries with observers from the OAS, which judged the process to be “transparent and participative.” Second, all the presidential candidates—save one from a small party on the extreme left—wanted the elections to go forward. Third, though Mr. Insulza insisted on calling the removal of Mr. Zelaya a “military coup,” the military had never taken charge of the government. And finally, the independent electoral tribunal, chosen by congress before Mr. Zelaya was removed, was continuing with the steps required to fulfill its constitutional mandate to conduct the vote. In the aftermath of the elections Mr. Insulza, who insisted that the group would not recognize the results, presides over a discredited OAS…

In my Sunday roundup, Bob mentioned a few things that he has found troubling. In particular, what he identified as the “pretty heavy repression by the coup government” which included the “blocking of Canal 36, the violent attack on peaceful protestors in San Pedro de Sula, the raids on and military cordons around leftist, indigenous and campesino organisations, the blanket militarisation of the country on polling day, and so on.”

I agree that police and military crackdowns on genuinely peaceful demonstrations conducted by any political group or element of civil society should be condemned. However, when activists start breaking windows,  setting fires and constructing barricades preventing free movement–let alone when they start hurling rocks, petrol bombs, or displaying clubs, machetes or other weapons–the security forces have an obligation to maintain law and order.

Regarding the shutdown of Canal 36, the emergency decree that shut down the station was lifted by interim president Micheletti on Oct. 6. A week and a half after being implemented (Sep. 26). So this was hardly anything long-term or even medium-term. It was a short-term measure that the interim government thought was necessary given the chaotic political climate in the country after Zelaya was removed from office.

Bob also noted that the Frente Nacional de la Resistencia has claimed the explosive devices were set by provocateurs. He finds this “plausible…as there is no motive for Zelaya’s supporters to do it.” Yet, as I pointed out in my comment, there is at least one major motive for Zelaya’s supporters to engage in this sort of political violence. They were the ones calling for a boycott of the election. If these attacks had lead to low voter turnout, Zelaya’s supporters would have used this as evidence that the elections were illegitimate, that the new government has no mandate, etc. etc. etc.

The possibility of right-wing provocateurs crossed my mind as well. But I think in this case, the political forces that wanted to repress voter turnout were those who are afraid of losing, i.e. the forces loyal to Zelaya. All polls showed the conservative candidate ahead by double-digits. So I don’t think they are behind this.

I would be remiss if I did not include what leftist periodicals are squawking about in response to the election results. In this case, a link to the Guardian will suffice (h/t to Flesh is Grass for pointing me to this). The author, Rory Carroll, states “foreign governments lined up to condemn the vote as a whitewash” and that “many Hondurans boycotted it.”

However, many governments–including Latin American governments that opposed the ouster of Zelaya–have recognized the election results. And as mentioned above, it appears the number of Hondurans who participated was between fifty and sixty percent. That is a higher percentage of participation than most presidential elections in the United States and many other democracies.

As to why the conservative candidate won, Carroll is convinced the election was rigged by conniving economic elites. In particular the descendants of Jewish and Palestinian immigrants who “dominate banking, insurance, manufacturing, telecommunications and media, including TV and newspapers.”  I think the correspondent has been spending too much time listening to his ideological comrades at Radio Globo.

I hope the elections pave the way for an easing of tensions between Honduras and the United States and an end to calls for sanctions and political isolation. Perhaps most importantly, the courage of Honduran democrats and the strength of Honduran democratic institutions provides an example to Central and South Americans that the form of jingoistic populism supported by Hugo Chavez and his allies can and will be challenged.

ADDED (Thursday December 3):

The Honduran Congress voted against allowing Zelaya to serve the final two months of his term. The vote was close to unanimous with 111 legislators against Zelaya and 14 supporting him. In case readers are unaware, the congress is dominated by Zelaya’s own Liberal Party. The AP reports:

Lawmaker after lawmaker insisted Wednesday that they were right the first time when they voted to oust Zelaya for ignoring a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum on changing the constitution. That vote happened hours after soldiers stormed into Zelaya’s residence and flew him into exile in his pajamas.

Zelaya opponents accuse him of trying to hang on to power by lifting a ban on presidential re-election, as his leftist ally Hugo Chavez has done in Venezuela. Zelaya denies such intentions.

“My vote is (a lesson) for anyone who pretends to perpetuate himself in power. My vote is so that my son can look at me and say ‘Dad you defended democracy,”‘ said Antonio Rivera of Lobo’s conservative National Party.

ADDED (Saturday December 5):

Here are some comments from Bob that are important to address:

[T]here has been some violence from anti-coup protestors. I am not saying that this is a black and white issue and the coup regime were purely baddies and the pro-Zelaya forces purely goodies. The anti-coup movement has taken a variety of forms, and some of them are unsavoury. But the acts of violence have been fairly marginal – the disturbios youTubes show small numbers of masked up young people and could be countered to any number of youTubes showing purely non-violent protests involving large numbers of people of all sorts. I also think that the illegitimacy of the coup regime changes the terms, and a blanket condemnation of all kinds of violence against it is therefore not necessarily right.

Protests and protesters are a mixed bag. Some, if not most, people behave nonviolently and some people behave violently. However, when protesters get out of hand–even when they are a small minority–and start breaking windows, throwing rocks and petrol bombs, etc, the police respond in a general fashion by shutting the protests down. I think this is the way police respond in many, if not most, democracies. I know it is how the police respond in the U.S. Here is a post from Nov. 25 by an organization that supports Zelaya claiming, “the dictatorship arms itself with weapons and munitions of death.” The weapons in question? An armored truck with a watercannon and teargas.

The use (I would say misuse) of the term “coup” is the key to the large difference in our perspectives. As I have stated elsewhere, there was no coup in Honduras. I realize this is not a popular position to take with most of my friends and associates, the U.S. State Department, or the Organization of American States (OAS) but a classic coup d’etat is where the military seizes power and abolishes democratic institutions. This never happened in Honduras. Instead, the military acted according the demands of the legislative and judicial branches. It was a constitutional use of the military and not a coup.

I know I am in the minority taking this position but I think it is the correct position to take in this case. I think most of the Honduran people–with the exception of Zelaya’s supporters–agree. When they told people outside of their country, “look, this is not a coup, everything was done according to our constitution and the rule of law,” I listened to them, not the State Department or the OAS.

I also think that the repression should not be whitewashed as a temporary measure to restore order. The closure of media outlets, temporary or not, and the miltiarisation of public space are NOT conducive to democracy. We condemn these things when Chavez does them. (The media outlets Chavez closed were involved in the coup there; his justification exactly mirrors that used by the coup regime.) For these reasons, the election’s validity was completely undermined.

There is a huge difference between short-term measures that are done during times of political instability and long-term measures that become hallmarks of a particular regime. If Chavez had shut down these outlets for a few weeks or even a month I would agree with you. But Chavez shuts down media and other interests that are critical of him and then has his government take them over. Here were are, almost eight years after the attempted coup and “Chavez’s government is moving forcefully to silence critics by introducing a Media Crimes bill that would give it sweeping authority to jail journalists, media executives, and bloggers who report on anything that the government considers to be harmful to state interests.” He has also taken over banks the iron and steel industries and other sectors of the economy.

Can’t you see a difference here? Nothing like this has occurred in Honduras. The two stations were shut down for a few weeks. That is it. Once the situation stabilized they were allowed to broadcast again.

It seems to be hard to find reliable figures about turnout, with some news sources giving figures like 66% (typical in Honduran elections) but others more like 35%. As far as I can tell, less than 2 million people voted in an electorate of over 4 million.

What legitimate sources claim the turnout was 35%? All that I have read mentions the percentage varies between a low of about 48% and a high somewhere in the 60s. The election that placed Zelaya in power had a participation rate of 46% and nobody on the left was up in arms about those results.

The elections were characterised by assassinations, dissappearances, detentions, politically motivated arrests, blockades of opposition buildings.

There were international observers present for the election and none of them support this perspective. I realize VenezuelaAnalysis.com, NarcoNews, Cuban media and some far-left sites claim this is the case, but most reports I have read claim the election was largely peaceful. Bloomberg statesHonduras voted amid relative calm”. Even the NYT, no fans of the interim government, describe  “a police and military presence in the capital” with no reports of violence.

The police presence is understandable  given the fact that Zelaya’s supporters stated they planned on disrupting the election. If the police were intimidating people and preventing them from voting, this needs to be condemned. But if they were preventing belligerents from intimidating people who wanted to vote, this ought to be supported.

OK, am convinced there have been some explosive devices. Some of the reportage seems a little dodgy though, with these shadowy Nicaraguans, the Russian and Chinese weapons, and the Guatemalan passenger plane… It seems wrong to me to attribute them to the “resistance movement”; there seems little or no evidence for that.

Zelaya’s supporters (including “the resistance movement”) are the ones who wanted to disrupt the elections. I don’t see it as much of stretch to acknowledge their biggest supporters outside the country are found in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, places where Russian and Chinese weapons are rather common.

Approximately a week before the election, the AP reported (Nov 25) “on Nov. 12, assailants fired an anti-tank grenade toward a building where ballots for the presidential election were stored.” And in the same article, “Honduran police detained two Nicaraguans and two Hondurans along with several rifles, and interim President Roberto Micheletti claimed the weapons were part of a plot to attack him during Sunday’s presidential election.” If I were a betting man (which I am not) I would wager those rifles were made in China or Russia.

[National Party candidate and victor Porfirio Lobo (r) shakes the hand of Liberal Party candidate Elvin Santos (l)]

Cuban Bloggers Attacked by State Security Agents and Pro-Government Mob

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Last Friday, November 13, Cuban bloggers Yoani Sanchez and Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo were on their way to a march in downtown Havana when they were forced into an unmarked car by plainclothes police agents and beaten up. Juan O. Tamayo of the Miami Herald notes:

Blogger Claudia Cadelo and another woman were detained in the incident, but without violence.

“The U.S. government strongly deplores the assault,” said a State Department statement issued late Monday. “We have expressed to the Cuban government our deep concern . . . and we are following up with inquiries to [the three bloggers] . . . regarding their personal well-being and access to medical care.”

Sánchez’ husband, Reynaldo Escobar, told El Nuevo Herald she’s walking with a crutch and taking medicines for a backache, the result of being thrown head-first into a car and punched in the back by the three men in plainclothes who detained her for 20 minutes. There was no word on Pardo’s health.

Cuba’s government-controlled mass media has made no mention of the incident, which received wide coverage abroad because of Sanchez’s fame as the prize-winning author of the blog Generación Y, which regularly criticizes the ruling system.

“The Cuban authorities are using brute force to try to silence Yoani Sanchez’s only weapon: her ideas,” said José Miguel Vivanco, head of the New York-based Americas section of Human Rights Watch. “The international community must send a firm message to Raúl Castro that such attacks on independent voices are completely unacceptable.

“This brazen attack makes clear that no one in Cuba who voices dissent is safe from violent reprisals,” Vivanco added.

The Human Rights Foundation, an independent group also based in New York, decried the “blatant attempt by the Cuban government to silence independent thought and speech” and added: “Does the Cuban government realize the preposterous irony of violently assaulting citizens who were on their way to protest violence?”

Seven U.S. senators from both parties, meanwhile, issued statements Tuesday condemning the incident, with New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez calling it “yet another indication that despite all the hoped-for change on the island, the regime continues to rule with an iron fist that crushes any seed of free speech or human rights.”

The Cato Institute’s Ian Vasquez opines:

It’s the 490th anniversary of Havana today and the Cuban government has arranged for celebratory activities. Ordinary residents of Havana and all Cubans who cherish their civil and human rights have less to celebrate, however, as Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez regularly reminds us. Sanchez has become a major irritant of the regime because of her penetrating posts about the absurdities and injustices of everyday life in communist Cuba. You can see her blog in Spanish here, and in English here.

Just over a week ago, in an incident that was widely reported in the international press and that reveals the threat to the Cuban regime of the growing Cuban blogger movement, Sanchez was assaulted in Havana by plain-clothed government agents. Though she was forcefully beaten, she and her friends managed to fight back and get away. More than that, they took pictures of their assailants and of the incident for posting on the blog, prompting the government thugs to leave the scene. One photo of an agent features the caption “She is covering her face…Perhaps afraid of the future.” Another photo features Sanchez pursuing her assailants with the caption: “They have watched us for decades. Now we are watching them.” Very smart.

Now her husband has been attacked. Reuters reports:

The husband of Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez said he was attacked by government supporters as he waited on Friday to confront state security agents accused of detaining and beating his wife two weeks ago.

Sanchez, whose writing about the hardships of Cuban life were praised this week by President Barack Obama, said men believed to be government agents forced her into a car and hit her repeatedly in a brief detention on November 6.

Reinaldo Escobar, also a blogger, said he had gone to a Havana intersection hoping that state security agents would respond to a challenge he issued earlier to meet there for a “verbal duel” about his wife’s incident.

He said he was speaking to reporters when, in what appeared to be an orchestrated event, several hundred people gathered and began shouting “Viva Fidel” and “Viva la Revolucion.”

About 20 of his supporters began shouting back and the situation turned violent, he said.

“They pulled my hair, hit me with a shoe, tore my shirt, pulled away my bag of books. I lost my glasses,” Escobar, aged 62, told Reuters.

His wife, who was not with him at the attack, wrote on Twitter: “Until when will the language of force, of intolerance and disrespect for the opinion of others be the one that prevails in my country?”

The Cuban government responded quickly to Escobar’s accusations, emailing to foreign journalists a story published in the website laRepublica.es with the headline “The Cuban people are tired of Yoani Sanchez.”

“Your blog provides the world a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba. It is telling that the Internet has provided you and other courageous Cuban bloggers with an outlet to express yourself so freely,” Obama wrote.

“The government and people of the United States join all of you in looking forward to the day all Cubans can freely express themselves in public without fear and without reprisals,” Obama said.

Sanchez, 34, has won several international awards and was named by Time Magazine last year as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Obama’s response added to her international stature as Cuba’s leading dissident voice, but she is little known on the island where Internet access is limited.

The Cuban government has made no secret of its distaste for her, but she is among a growing group of young Cubans who have taken to the Internet to express their desire for change on the island.

Library of Congress Report Finds No Coup in Honduras, Zelaya Returns

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honduras_zelaya_candela_no

[H/t Neo-Republica for this image and image below]

Mary Anastasia O’Grady (WSJ) has uncovered some very important information on the so-called coup in Honduras.  She notes, “a report filed at the Library of Congress by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides what the administration has not offered, a serious legal review of the facts”. The report, written by CRS senior foreign law specialist Norma C. Gutierrez claims:

Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system.

I have been trying to find a copy of the report online this morning but am unable to locate it. As soon as I find it I will post a link.

Meanwhile, Zelaya has returned to Honduras with the assistance of Brazilian president Lula de Silva. This is via Voice of America:

Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has returned to his country’s capital, Tegucigalpa, and taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy to avoid arrest.

In a television interview Monday, Mr. Zelaya said he had returned to Honduras to reclaim his presidency in accordance with the will of the people. He called for for a national dialogue.

Initial reports that Mr. Zelaya had returned were unclear about his exact location. Crowds of supporters rallied outside the United Nations building in Tegucigalpa amid reports that he was inside.

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department, Ian Kelly, said the U.S. reiterates its “almost daily” call for supporters of both Mr. Zelaya and interim President Roberto Micheletti to exercise restraint and refrain from actions that could provoke violence.

Kelly added the U.S. still considers Mr. Zeyala Honduras’s democratically elected and constitutional leader.

Jose De Cordoba (WSJ) reports:

A few thousand Zelaya supporters surrounded the embassy in Tegucigalpa, raising fears of violence between his backers and the interim government of President Roberto Micheletti. Mr. Micheletti’s government had vowed to arrest Mr. Zelaya if he returned.

Some of the demonstrators said they would march to the presidential palace on Tuesday to throw out Mr. Micheletti’s government and install Mr. Zelaya. Mr. Micheletti’s government had set a Monday curfew from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m., and later extended the curfew through Tuesday evening.

In a television address, Mr. Micheletti, flanked by his cabinet and Gen. Romeo Vasquez, the Honduran army’s chief of staff, said the Brazilian government should turn over Mr. Zelaya to Honduran authorities so he can face legal charges. Mr. Micheletti said Mr. Zelaya’s “irregular” return didn’t change anything, as Mr. Zelaya had been removed from power following a Supreme Court order.

In New York, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorin told reporters he hoped that Mr. Zelaya’s return to Honduras would open a new stage in the so-far failed negotiations…

Close ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said Mr. Zelaya told him he traveled with four companions. Mr. Chávez hailed Mr. Zelaya’s return and said his country stood ready to help him return to power.

honduras_zelaya_suppoters_palos

Also in WSJ:

Mr. Zelaya was deposed and deported this summer after he agitated street protests to support a rewrite of the Honduran constitution so he could serve a second term. The constitution strictly prohibits a change in the term-limits provision. On multiple occasions he was warned to desist, and on June 28 the Supreme Court ordered his arrest.

Every major Honduran institution supported the move, even members in Congress of his own political party, the Catholic Church and the country’s human rights ombudsman. To avoid violence the Honduran military escorted Mr. Zelaya out of the country. In other words, his removal from office was legal and constitutional, though his ejection from the country gave the false appearance of an old-fashioned Latin American coup.

The U.S. has since come down solidly on the side of—Mr. Zelaya. While it has supported negotiations and called for calm, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both insisted that Honduras must ignore Mr. Zelaya’s transgressions and their own legal processes and restore him as president. The U.S. has gone so far as to cut off aid, threaten Honduran assets in the U.S. and pull visas to enter the U.S. from the independent judiciary. The U.S. has even threatened not to recognize presidential elections previously scheduled for November unless Mr. Zelaya is first brought back to power—even though he couldn’t run again.

This remarkable diplomatic pressure against a small Central American ally has only reinforced Mr. Zelaya’s refusal to compromise short of a return to the presidency, with all of the instability and potential for violence that could involve. It also probably encouraged him to gamble on returning to Honduras on Monday, figuring even that provocation won’t endanger U.S. support. And so far it hasn’t.

Now that he is back, Mr. Zelaya and his allies aren’t calling for calm. His supporters have flocked to Brazil’s embassy with cinder blocks, sticks and Molotov cocktails. “The fatherland, restitution or death,” he shouted to demonstrators outside the embassy. In anticipation of trouble and with concern for public safety, President Roberto Micheletti announced a curfew. But when police tried to enforce the curfew, the zelayistas resisted and there is now a Honduran standoff.

On Monday Mr. Zelaya said he owed his return and political survival to “the support of the international community.” He’s getting support from Nicaragua’s Sandinista President Daniel Ortega, the former guerrilla group FMLN in El Salvador, and especially from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. But let’s face it: None of that support would mean very much without the diplomatic and sanctions muscle of the U.S.

This is from J.E. Dyer at Contentions:

Brazil’s support for ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya is the latest event in a worrying trend. Zelaya has been holed up at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa since his secretive return to Honduras on Monday. Brazil is not taking a neutral stance by harboring him. Brazil is among the majority of Latin American nations that have insisted on Zelaya’s reinstatement, but it is significant that Brasilia’s embassy is hosting the ousted president, rather than, say, the embassy of Costa Rica, whose President Arias acted as mediator in talks this summer…

It should not surprise us to learn that Lula da Silva is facing the same decision that confronts all modern Latin American presidents: the end of his constitutionally permitted tenure in office. He has steadfastly refused to consider amending Brazil’s constitution so he can seek another term. But he is a popular president, his handpicked successor has been battling cancer, and Brazilian sentiment is 50-50 on whether he should be allowed another term. Like Uribe of Colombia, Lula da Silva is popular enough to obtain the approval of the people for this course—making them both unlike Zelaya.

Lastly, here is former Honduran Foreign Minister and Supreme Court Justice Guillermo Perez-Cadalso on the situation (via C-SPAN2):

Honduras Debate: Davis Vs Grandin on Democracy Now

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Democracy Now! is a misnamed show because the program’s host, Amy Goodman, has such an obvious disdain for the concept of democracy. Like so many on the far left, Goodman reserves her criticisms for places like the U.S. and Israel while giving Cuba, Venezuela and Iran a free pass. She also loves bringing on spokespeople from authoritarian political sects like ANSWER, World Can’t Wait, and other communist front groups. So as you may have guessed, I generally avoid her program like the plague.

I was flipping channels the other day and caught the program mid-broadcast and was surprised to hear an actual debate on events in Honduras taking place between Professor Greg Grandin from NYU and Lanny Davis from the Business Council on Latin America.

Not sure why Mr. Davis agreed to be on Goodman’s program in this first place, but he did a good job of refuting the the misinformation promoted by her and Grandin.

Check it out here.

Excepts from the transcript of the program:

AMY GOODMAN:

Protests in the streets of Honduras continue nearly six weeks after President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a military coup. Riot police used tear gas and water cannons on a crowd of hundreds of protesters calling for Zelaya’s return. Clashes have erupted more frequently after the coup government warned last week it would no longer tolerate street blockades.

Meanwhile, soldiers have occupied state hospitals after some 15,000 nurses and other hospital workers declared an indefinite strike. They join tens of thousands of public school teachers who have been striking for weeks. Further protests are expected in the coming days with more Zelaya supporters marching to Tegucigalpa from various regions of Honduras, expecting to converge on the capital on August 10th.

The protests come as the Organization of American States agreed Wednesday to send a delegation to Honduras sometime next week. They want acting President Roberto Micheletti to accept a Costa Rican plan under which Zelaya would return to power until new elections can be held.

Zelaya, meanwhile, has called on the US to use its trade leverage over Honduras to pressure the coup regime. But the Obama administration is showing signs of retracting its stated support for his return. In a letter to Republican Senator Richard Lugar, the State Department said US policy in Honduras, quote, “is not based on supporting any particular politician or individual. Rather, it is based on finding a resolution that best serves the Honduran people and their democratic aspirations.” The letter also criticizes Zelaya for taking “provocative” actions that “led” to his removal…

[T]oday we host a debate on the situation in Honduras. Lanny Davis is an attorney for Honduran business leaders group and the former special counsel to President Clinton. He joins us from Washington, DC. Joining us on the telephone is Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at New York University and author of Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism. He reported from Honduras two weeks ago but joins us today from Paraguay.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Lanny Davis, let’s begin with you. Explain exactly who you represent, who is paying you to oppose the ousted president Manuel Zelaya.

LANNY DAVIS: I represent a group of business community people called CEAL, who would be the equivalent of the Chamber of Commerce. It’s the Latin American Business Council of Honduras.

I do want to say that I appeared on Democracy Now! with the assurance, Amy, that you would be a neutral moderator, yet your opening is an ideological rant that distorts the facts. For example, you said that Mr. Zelaya accepted the Arias accords. In fact, Mr. Zelaya rejected President Arias’s proposal, and the government of Mr. Micheletti has announced, and has, in fact, said it would continue to discuss. So, let’s get the facts straight before we go any further.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Grandin, let’s begin with what Lanny Davis contends, that the ousted President Zelaya has rejected the Costa Rica accords.

GREG GRANDIN: No, that’s wrong. Two weeks ago, right when the talks broke down, when Arias presented his seven-point plan, Zelaya almost immediately accepted them. And Oscar Arias came out and gave a press conference in which he regretted the fact that Micheletti, the leader of the new regime, the coup government in Honduras, rejected the accords, while Zelaya accepted them fully. And one can Google the statement, Oscar Arias, Zelaya, Micheletti, and they’ll find the exact quote from Oscar Arias.

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis?

LANNY DAVIS: Well, we’ll Google—we’ll Google this statement, and I will challenge the professor to find the quote of Zelaya saying, “This is unacceptable,” and walking out of the room. And I will challenge him to find the statement by Mr. Micheletti, which he just sent several days ago, asking Mr. Arias and the commission of the Congress, controlled by Mr. Zelaya’s party, with the chairman a liberal, going through each of Mr. Arias’s proposals.

And, by the way, the Congress, 95 percent of the Congress, even if you quarrel with plus or minus ten votes, voted to remove Mr. Zelaya, including a majority of his own party, as did fifteen members of the Supreme Court, including a majority of the Supreme Court justices who were liberal democrats. So those are the facts. And when you describe this as a military coup and don’t add that two civilian institutions of government, the judiciary and the Congress, both ordered Mr. Zelaya to be arrested or to be removed from office, you are not completely and accurately reporting the news.

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis, are saying that the coup president right now, Roberto Micheletti, has accepted the Arias accords?

LANNY DAVIS: No, he has taken each element of the Arias accords, which would not, by the way, permit another inaccuracy in your ideological introduction. The Arias accords would not permit Mr. Zelaya to return as president as he was president. He would be restricted from doing anything contrary to the Constitution, such as he is not allowed to support the constitutional so-called referendum, which was found to be, by the Supreme Court, to be unconstitutional. Mr. Arias said that is not permitted. He has to have a coalition government composed of all parties, not just his own. So he would not be allowed to return as president, and that’s really why he rejected accepting all of the elements of the Arias proposal…

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis, I wanted, and Greg Grandin, to go back to an interview we did with President Zelaya. It was about ten days after he was ousted. He described for Democracy Now! what happened the day he was removed from power.

PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] They attacked my house at 5:30 in the morning. A group of at least 200 to 250 armed soldiers with hoods and bulletproof vests and rifles aimed their guns at me, fired shots, used machine guns, kicked down the doors, and just as I was, in pajamas, they put me on a plane and flew me to Costa Rica.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the ousted President Zelaya. Lanny Davis, your response to what happened to the ousted President Zelaya?

LANNY DAVIS: Yeah, I don’t defend what was done. He should have been put in jail, as the Supreme Court ordered him. He violated the law. The Congress voted him out of office. And he should have been arrested and prosecuted with full due process of law. So I don’t defend that decision.

I understand the decision, because, again, what your program doesn’t report are facts. So, that was in the context of the day before, the president of an elected country leading a mob—that’s a fact—over 2,000 people, overrunning an air force barracks to seize ballots that were shipped in by Venezuela to conduct a referendum that the Supreme Court, by a 15-to-0 decision, called illegal. So the decision to ship him out of the country, I believe, in hindsight, could have been done differently.

But if you don’t also report that he had led a mob to overrun an air force barracks in violation of the two institutions of government, the Supreme Court and the Congress, at the same time that you call that a coup—it was a civilian-ordered arrest, and he defied the law and defied all findings of his own party in the Congress—if you don’t also report that, Amy, you’re engaging not in news, but in ideological ranting, which is what I said to your producer: I would come on this show with the assurance that you would not do that, and I’m afraid you’ve done it again.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Grandin?

GREG GRANDIN: Can I just jump in? There’s a couple of things I’d like to contest that Mr. Davis said. One is, you are reporting the facts. Micheletti—I was in Honduras when Micheletti rejected the accords and then backpedaled and said that he would accept some of them or that he would reject [inaudible]—

LANNY DAVIS: Now you said he backpedaled. You didn’t say that before, did you?

GREG GRANDIN: Can I finish? Can I—

LANNY DAVIS: I’m glad you now conceded that point. Thank you.

GREG GRANDIN: Am I allowed to finish? Can I finish?

LANNY DAVIS: Sure, sure.

GREG GRANDIN: I let you speak, right?

That it’s obviously an effort to buy time, that the pressure of—by the international community. By the way, the rest of the US allies, not just Venezuela, but Chile, Brazil, Europe, Spain, the European Union, all understand this to be a coup, Central American neighboring countries of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala. So there’s not a dispute in the international community, and it’s only the United States who are having a debate whether this is a coup.

Second of all, let’s just state out—right out front that Zelaya was overthrown because the business community didn’t like that he increased the minimum wage. We’re talking about an elite that treats Honduras as if it was its own private plantation. There’s an excellent AP report published yesterday that says exactly this.

The legal reasoning, all of the legal reasoning and the loaded words about mobs and overrunning that Lanny Davis is using, is all done retroactively in order to justify a military intervention into civilian politics. Even if it is all true, and it’s a big “if,” considering that Otto Reich-linked organizations were running a major disinformation campaign in Honduras for over a year, Zelaya is entitled to due process. Can Davis say where in the Honduran Constitution presidents accused of wrongdoing—not convicted, just accused—can be forced out of bed in pajamas and sent into exile? After all, come on, Bill Clinton was impeached. Members of his own party voted for that impeachment, but he was allowed due process. Zelaya was never presented with an arrest warrant, nor did the military ever mention acting in response to a warrant. All of that was done retroactively in order to justify the military intervention. And in any case, the military is not a law enforcement agency. They certainly aren’t allowed to kidnap citizens and fly them out of the country. The Honduran Constitution guarantees—

LANNY DAVIS: May I respond?

GREG GRANDIN: —due process.

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis?

LANNY DAVIS: The absence of fact by somebody who calls himself a professor is positively breathtaking. Let’s go through each of the misstatements of fact. We at least can agree on facts and put our rhetoric aside.

Number one, the Honduran Constitution has no impeachment process. The 15-to-0 vote by the Supreme Court, which you conveniently forgot to mention, is in separate institution of government, eight out of fifteen from the liberal party; the Congress overwhelmingly voted to remove him from office, because he violated Article 239 by his referendum—both the Supreme Court and the Congress being controlled by members of his own party.

Finally, I have not defended the absence of due process. You don’t even listen while you’re ideologically ranting about the business community controlling the Supreme Court, a duly elected Congress, are all controlled by Otto Reich in Washington. You use rhetoric rather than fact. I do concede, and readily concede—

GREG GRANDIN: Here’s a fact. Here’s a fact. Article—

LANNY DAVIS: He should have been—

GREG GRANDIN: Article—

LANNY DAVIS: Excuse me.

GREG GRANDIN: Here’s a fact, Mr. Davis—

LANNY DAVIS: You have no facts to dispute to that the Congress—

GREG GRANDIN: Article 239—

LANNY DAVIS: Now you’ve interrupted—

GREG GRANDIN: Article 239—

LANNY DAVIS: Now we’re even. Now you’re interrupting me, so we’re even. So let me finish.

The Congress, duly elected, and four out of five of the major parties, all parties, both presidential candidates of the major parties, the Church, every civil institution in Honduras, so we’re talking about the judiciary, the Congress, the Church, all of the parties but one, supported his ouster from government. And you say it was the business community elite? You are an ideologue. You’re not talking facts.

GREG GRANDIN: OK. I don’t know—

LANNY DAVIS: Now I’m done.

GREG GRANDIN: Now can I finish—

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Grandin?

GREG GRANDIN: —the ad hominem attack on whether I’m an ideologue or not. A couple of facts. Article 239 of the—

LANNY DAVIS: You’re using ad hominem words, my friend, not me.

GREG GRANDIN: Article 239 of the—

LANNY DAVIS: “Elite” is an ad hominem word.

GREG GRANDIN: Can I—Article—

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Grandin.

GREG GRANDIN: Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution has what is called a self-executive—executing clause that says that any president who tries to decide—who tries to extend term limits is automatically removed. Now, legal scholars in Honduras have disputed the validity of this clause. But setting that aside, Zelaya wasn’t trying to do away with term limits. It’s a disinformation campaign that Zelaya was trying to extend his term in office, which was the only way in which that clause could be invoked. All he wanted to do was hold a non-binding survey to ask Hondurans if they wanted—whether they were in agreement to hold a constitutional assembly that would approve a new constitution after he had left office.

LANNY DAVIS: Can I ask you a question?

GREG GRANDIN: And in any case, Article 239 was invoked, again, ex post facto. You could read the—you could read—again, fact: you can read the decree by Congress, which justified the removal of Zelaya from office, and it doesn’t mention Article 239.

LANNY DAVIS: Professor, can I ask a question?

GREG GRANDIN: Now—

LANNY DAVIS: Can I ask you a question about Article 239?

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis?

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah.

LANNY DAVIS: Honest question. The Supreme Court’s decision was a review of Mr. Zelaya’s actions and whether it violated Article 239. That’s a fact. And the Supreme Court—you can read the decision—the Supreme Court found 15-to-0 that your scholars, which can—all legal questions can be debated. I agree with you. Your scholars were disagreed with by a 15-to-0 vote by the Supreme Court, including eight members of Mr. Zelaya’s party. What is your comment about the Supreme Court’s decision?

GREG GRANDIN: The Supreme Court decision was done retroactively. And—

LANNY DAVIS: No, it was not.

GREG GRANDIN: —in any case—

LANNY DAVIS: That’s false.

GREG GRANDIN: —the Supreme Court—

LANNY DAVIS: That’s—wait a minute. That’s a false statement. The dateline is the Supreme Court made that decision on June 25th. He was not removed from the country on June 28th. Now, you just made a false statement of fact. Take it back.

GREG GRANDIN: The Supreme—

LANNY DAVIS: Take it back.

GREG GRANDIN: I’m—

LANNY DAVIS: Take it back.

GREG GRANDIN: Look, you made a false statement when you said that—

LANNY DAVIS: June 25th, three days before he was ousted, was the Supreme Court decision. Take your false statement back.

GREG GRANDIN: And did the Supreme Court—

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis, let the historian, Greg Grandin, respond.

GREG GRANDIN: Can I finish? Can I finish?

LANNY DAVIS: I’m waiting for him to take it back.

GREG GRANDIN: The Supreme Court did not invoke Article 239 in that decision. It didn’t—

LANNY DAVIS: You are wrong.

GREG GRANDIN: It just simply didn’t—I am not wrong; I am right.

LANNY DAVIS: You are—again, you don’t even know the Supreme—you don’t even know the Constitution of Honduras has no impeachment clause. You referred to impeachment. And you don’t know a basic fact. Have you read the Constitution?

GREG GRANDIN: I was using impeachment—

LANNY DAVIS: Professor, have you read the Constitution?

GREG GRANDIN: I was using impeachment to talk about Bill Clinton.

LANNY DAVIS: Have you read the Constitution?

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to take a break, and we’re going to come back. Our guests are Lanny Davis, attorney for the Honduran business leaders group. He is being paid by the—is it the Honduran Chamber of Commerce?

LANNY DAVIS: It’s called CEAL, and it’s the Latin American Business Council of Honduras. But I said it’s the functional equivalent of a chamber of commerce, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at New York University. We’ll be back with both of them in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guests, Lanny Davis, he is being paid by the Honduran chamber of commerce for the Honduran business community opposing the return of the ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, and Greg Grandin, a professor of Latin American history at New York University.

Lanny Davis, I just wanted to read for you from CNN, a headline from July 29th. I am now looking at their website, and it says, “Zelaya accepts proposal; opposition not ready,” talking about the proposal by Oscar Arias to resolve the conflict in Honduras.

And I want to start by asking you now to respond to the European Union imposing sanctions against the coup government, to the Organization of American States also condemning it, to—well, President Obama himself calling it a coup, although they have backtracked on that in the last weeks. Are you satisfied with the Obama administration’s response to the ouster of Zelaya?

LANNY DAVIS: Absolutely. And by the way, if the professor can concede a little bit that maybe Mr. Micheletti is now prepared to go through the Arias proposal and all of its component parts, as the Congress commission recently just did, it sounds like Mr. Zelaya, having put two feet into the Honduras nation and then withdrew, when he was at the border a couple of weeks ago, now seems to have changed his position, and that’s good. And the reason that I say it’s good is that this is going to have to be resolved peacefully between Mr. Micheletti and Mr. Zelaya, and the return of Mr. Zelaya needs to be negotiated under the terms of the Arias proposal. And, of course, Secretary of State Clinton is responsible for encouraging President Arias to begin this process, and Mr. Micheletti and Mr. Zelaya, both of them committed to the process.

At one point, the first announcement day, Mr. Zelaya walked out and said, “This is unacceptable.” I do agree that both parties are now moving to the center and are now at least willing to go back to the table with President Arias, who’s a Nobel Peace Prize winner. There needs to be a negotiated solution.

There will be a new president elected at the end of November. And it’s in the interest of America and the world that there be democratic, free, fair and open elections. I hope the national institutes of democracy, Carter Center, the OAS, everybody who can possibly be on the ground to monitor those elections, so there’s a full and fair and free election for the new president at the end of November, which I think is the ultimate best ending of this very, very tragic story.

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis, again quoting from CNN from their report on July 19th, it said, “Earlier Saturday Arias outlined seven steps he believes need to be taken. The first step, he said, is that Zelaya must be returned to power.” Do you agree with the Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Costa Rican president?

LANNY DAVIS: Well, remember, I represent—you keep saying Chamber of Commerce, even though I corrected you twice, Amy. I’m not sure why you didn’t hear me.

AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead. Repeat who you represent.

LANNY DAVIS: It’s the Latin American Council of Business Leaders. Latin American Council of Business Leaders.

AMY GOODMAN: Also known as CEAL.

LANNY DAVIS: I said it was the functional equivalent of—

AMY GOODMAN: Yes.

LANNY DAVIS: —the Chamber of Commerce.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes.

LANNY DAVIS: OK.

AMY GOODMAN: So, do you agree with—

LANNY DAVIS: Not a big deal.

AMY GOODMAN: —Oscar Arias—

LANNY DAVIS: So I can’t—I can’t—

AMY GOODMAN: —that Zelaya must be returned?

LANNY DAVIS: I can’t offer you my personal opinion; I will offer you the representation of the moderate business community who I do represent, who does say, in retrospect, the sending of Mr. Zelaya out of the country could have been done differently.

But I think they believe that Mr. Arias’s entire proposal, which boxes Mr. Zelaya in to following the law and the Constitution, despite the professor’s disagreement with a 15-0 decision by the Supreme Court—they found the referendum to be illegal and unconstitutional. So, Mr. Arias, reflecting that, has put Mr. Zelaya in the box of the rule of law. And I think the position would be is that nobody trusts him to violate the law.

And I wasn’t characterizing or using inflammatory words when I said—it’s on videotape, on YouTube—I’ll let your viewers look at Mr. Zelaya, the day before the 28th, leading 2,000 people, yelling and screaming and violently pushing forward into the air force base. I won’t use the word “M-O-B,” but what I just said are facts, the president of the country doing that, defying the Supreme Court and defying the Congress to seize ballots that were shipped in by the government of Venezuela.

Now, those are all facts that provide the context of why the Arias proposal, which is the basis for negotiations, has to be fleshed out, so that if Mr. Zelaya returns, he’s required to follow the Constitution and the rule of law and won’t lead another group of people—if the word “mob” offends the professor—another group of people to violate the law and override an air force base guard in order to seize property…

AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel President Obama was wrong in originally calling it a coup?

LANNY DAVIS: I think the word “coup” is used by people to describe the forced ouster of an executive official, and that is the way that President Obama saw it from the first announcement. I think, in the second and third look at the facts, when it was seen that he was ordered to be arrested, and he had self—taken himself out of the presidency—I think the professor was correct in saying “self-executing.” Under Article 239, anybody who tries to extend the Constitution, the term of office, is prohibited under 239 as president and is automatically—

GREG GRANDIN: Can I just jump in here?

LANNY DAVIS: —automatically removed from the presidency. So how could there—

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Greg Grandin?

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah.

LANNY DAVIS: —be a coup, if he no longer was president?

GREG GRANDIN: But one—again, again, in respect to 239, that was ex post facto justified. In the original Supreme Court—

LANNY DAVIS: Justified.

GREG GRANDIN: —ruling—in the original Supreme Court ruling, it didn’t mention Article 239. This was an attempt to put a constitutional veneer on what is in—what the rest of the world is, in fact, calling a coup.

Now, in terms of the rule of law, which Mr. Davis invokes quite a number of times, let’s talk about the current regime. The recent international observation mission made up of fifteen human rights groups has documented what they call, quote, “grave and systemic acts of political repression” taking place. There’s been at least ten murders or disappearances, all of them Zelaya supporters, the latest being last weekend. Martin Florencia Rivera was stabbed to death, leaving the wake of another executed Zelaya supporter.

Mr. Davis talks about the Catholic Church. Well, it turns out that progressive priests, Jesuits, environmentalists, like Jose Andres Tamayo, is being hounded by soldiers. Just the other day, the police attacked the university, director of the university; Julieta Castellanos was beaten with riot clubs.

Members of death squads from the 1980s, most famously Billy Joya, has returned to support the Micheletti government. The government is closing down radio stations. Radio Globo, one of the few radio stations that is calling it a coup, has been shut down. Due process is suspended. Large parts of the southern part of the country have twenty-four-hour curfews. This is the face of the regime, and Lanny Davis is saying it’s constitutional, is saying it’s upholding the rule of law. I don’t understand how a Democrat can defend it.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Grandin—

LANNY DAVIS: Can I respond?

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis.

LANNY DAVIS: First of all, my name is—apart from getting your facts wrong, my name is Lanny, not Lonnie. But that’s OK. I don’t defend any—

GREG GRANDIN: It’s my Brooklyn accent.

LANNY DAVIS: That’s OK. I don’t defend, if any of those things are true, if any of them are true. The people involved are—

GREG GRANDIN: They’re all true. They are all true.

LANNY DAVIS: Excuse me.

GREG GRANDIN: They’re all documented by international observers.

LANNY DAVIS: Alright, Professor, I think we’re now even, two-to-two, interrupting each other. So, maybe from this point on, we won’t do it.

If they are true, then those people are thugs, criminals, and should be prosecuted. And there are plenty of institutions in Honduras that would prosecute them. The last time that I heard of a charge, however, before we believe truth, because due process is also about getting truth, not believing allegations—I heard somebody and saw on television—the allegation was on CNN—where an individual said, “My mother was abducted from the house. The house was surrounded by police, and I am a Zelaya supporter.” The second or third day story was that this individual was involved in a spousal beating and was arrested, and his mother said, “I wasn’t ousted from my house.” Now, that was the second or third story.

So I’m not denying anything you said, Professor; I’m saying, let’s be sure that what was—seemed to be true is true, and if those people did what you said and if there have been media organizations shut down by the Micheletti government, which I do not believe is the case, but in my mind is open, that’s wrong, it’s a violation of my liberal principles, your liberal principles, there should be prosecutions. As long as you concede that Zelaya violating the law, according to the Supreme Court and his controlled Congress of his party, said he violated the law, and the Congress voted him to be removed, that you will respect democratic institutions in Honduras and not attribute it all to the, quote, “elite,” which is where we started in the very beginning…

GREG GRANDIN: The political institutions, and particularly in these three countries, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, have been hollowed out from the inside through organized crime cartels, often with deep roots in the military or traditional families. Political parties are often expressions of these interests. Read, for instance, the Washington Office on Latin America, kind of center-left think tank in Washington—they just released a report called “Captive States” that looks at Central America. The United Nations has set up a commission to investigate what they call “clandestine powers” that control Central American politics. This is not a conspiracy theory, and it’s certainly not ideological. It’s just fact…

LANNY DAVIS: May I respond?…

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis, I want to follow up my question about meeting with President Obama, which you said you did not have a chance to do that. But you’re a longtime law school chum of Hillary Clinton, as well as Bill Clinton. You, of course, were his special counsel. Have you had a chance to speak with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about this issue?

LANNY DAVIS: No, I not only haven’t, I deliberately chose not to call the State Department at all as part of my job. My job, I thought, and still think, is to get the facts out, to be as honest as I can about my observation of the facts and to testify, as you may know, before Representative Engel’s subcommittee about this situation.

And I would really also have to say that if an American liberal—I assume that professor and I are both liberals—were to make these kinds of judgments about a democracy, the turnout in Honduran—it’s one of the great democracies in Latin America—

GREG GRANDIN: [laughing]

LANNY DAVIS: —in terms of participation and votes. And that kind of laughter and judgmental elitism, which is a word that you seem to like to throw around—I haven’t once heard you mention Venezuela and Hugo Chavez and whether you consider him to be a small-d democrat, or is there any corruption in Venezuela. Would you concede there is similar corruption in one-party rule in Venezuela?

AMY GOODMAN: This is a discussion about Honduras, and I want to stick with this.

LANNY DAVIS: I want to know the answer to the question why Venezuela hasn’t been mentioned.

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis, I want to not go into a debate about Venezuela right now. I want to stick with President Zelaya.

LANNY DAVIS: Isn’t it interesting that I mention Venezuela, and, Amy, you don’t want to talk about Venezuela? That’s a very interesting issue.

AMY GOODMAN: Because I want to stick with this issue of President Zelaya. And I want to turn to his words. We had a chance to first interview him earlier this month during his brief visit to Washington, DC. This is what he said when Juan Gonzalez and I asked him whether he was illegally trying to extend his term through the referendum and subvert the Constitution of 1982. This is President Zelaya.

PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] In Honduras, we do not have reelections, and I never intended to be reelected. That will be a matter for another government, another constitution and another constituent assembly. The popular consultation is a survey, just like the one Gallup does or other polling groups. It does not create rights. It has no power to impose. It is not obligatory. It’s an opinion poll. How could this be a motive for a coup d’état? No one has tried to me. I was just expelled by force by the military. This is an argument made up by the coup plotters. Don’t believe them.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the ousted President Zelaya. I’m going to give you each a last comment. Lanny Davis, let’s begin with you.

LANNY DAVIS: Could I comment about your being the moderator of this show, Amy? No, I guess you don’t want me to.

AMY GOODMAN: I’d like to give you a final comment on this, if you—

LANNY DAVIS: So Venezuela has nothing to do with Zelaya, even though when he went into the barracks of the air force, he was seizing ballots, which he calls a public opinion survey—he could have hired Gallup—to seize ballots sent in by Venezuela. He’s arguing with his own Supreme Court, 15-to-0.

And your leading question, Amy, to the professor, well, would you comment on the Supreme Court? Well, let’s comment on that, the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is 15-to-0, already answered Mr. Zelaya’s question. The rule of law was that he was ordered to stop, because he was in violation of the Constitution, 15-to-0, eight of whom were from his own party. You always seem to forget mentioning eight of those justices were fellow liberals, and a majority of the liberal congressmen elected, from poor districts as well as wealthy, voted to remove him from office. Amy, you always forget to mention those facts.

And the ballots came from Venezuela, from Chavez. You said we’re here to talk about Zelaya, not Venezuela, which is you’re literally in denial about the involvement of Venezuela and Ortega behind Zelaya.

AMY GOODMAN: Historian Greg Grandin, your final comment?

GREG GRANDIN: Well, I think what you see here is exactly a strategy that Davis is borrowing from the Latin American right to cast anybody that they don’t like, in terms of Venezuela, to taint them with Venezuela, and we’re also seeing the importation of that strategy into the United States. The Republicans have done it quite successfully to derail Obama’s—I mean, Obama came to office promising to enact a new multilateral policy in Latin America, and his attempt to do this and to call the coup what it is, a coup in Honduras, has largely been sidetracked by Republican pressure, which has said that to support Zelaya, the restitution of Zelaya, as the legitimate leader of Honduras, under whatever conditions that the two sides agree on, would be the absolute—would be supporting Chavez’s—would be supporting Chavez’s agenda in Latin America. So we’re seeing both Republicans and Lonnie Davis importing this strategy, which has—

LANNY DAVIS: Lanny, Lanny.

GREG GRANDIN: —actually a quite pernicious effect in Latin America. It’s basically red-baiting…

Is Mexico a Failed State?

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Martin Peretz seems to think so:

I am extremely pessimistic about Mexican-American relations, not because the U.S. had done anything specifically wrong to our southern neighbor but because a (now not quite so) wealthy country has as its abutter a Latin society with all of its characteristic deficiencies:  congenital corruption, authoritarian government, anarchic politics, near-tropical work habits, stifling social mores, Catholic dogma with the usual unacknowledged compromises, an anarchic counter-culture and increasingly violent modes of conflict.  Then, there is the Mexican diaspora in America, hard-working and patriotic but mired in its untold numbers of illegals, about whom no one can talk with candor.

The present political strife between the two countries is actually economic.  But it is not wholly subsumed under the labels of “free trade” or “protectionism.”

The fact is that Mexico is also a failed state…and its failures are magnified by its immediate proximity to the U.S. Its failures will increasingly cross the national boundary, like the drugs and the people, two very different manifestations of our intimacy.

I tend to agree with Peretz but in this case he is way off the mark. Yes, there has been an alarming upsurge in drug-related violence. There is also an understandable concern with border security. But there is a certain amount of hysteria involved as well. Much of this hysteria revolves around violent criminality in Mexico.

Mexico’s murder rate is 11 per 100,000 residents, almost twice the rate in the  United States (5.9 per 100,000 in 2007). Yet when placed in a comparative perspective with other Latin American countries, Mexico’s murder rate is lower. By this measurement, Brazil, El Salvador, Colombia and much of Latin America are all failed states.

Plus his comments regarding the “characteristic deficiencies” of “Latin societies” are offensive. I know Peretz would be upset if one made similar generalizations about Jews and Israelis. So it is disappointing to read him stereotyping other groups.

But Peretz is not alone in his assessment. In addition to the voices of the nativist right, the WSJ’s Joel Kurtzman recently reported:

[A] new Pentagon study concludes that Mexico is at risk of becoming a failed state. Defense planners liken the situation to that of Pakistan, where wholesale collapse of civil government is possible.

One center of the violence is Tijuana, where last year more than 600 people were killed in drug violence. Many were shot with assault rifles in the streets and left there to die. Some were killed in dance clubs in front of witnesses too scared to talk.

It may only be a matter of time before the drug war spills across the border and into the U.S. To meet that threat, Michael Chertoff, the outgoing secretary for Homeland Security, recently announced that the U.S. has a plan to “surge” civilian and possibly military law-enforcement personnel to the border should that be necessary.

The problem is that in Mexico’s latest eruption of violence, it’s difficult to tell the good guys from the bad. Mexico’s antidrug czar, Noe Ramirez Mandujano was recently charged with accepting $450,000 from drug lords he was supposed to be hunting down. This was the second time in recent years that one of Mexico’s antidrug chiefs was arrested for taking possible payoffs from drug kingpins. Suspicions that police chiefs, mayors and members of the military are also on the take are rampant.

Secretary of State Clinton was correct to point out that the U.S. is the primary market for Mexican heroin, cocaine and marijuana and that American consumers are keeping the Mexican drug lords in business. So how do we reduce the demand for these products?

Conservatives tend to support stiffer penalties for users and dealers while liberals generally promote an expansion of drug treatment programs. Neither enforcement or treatment have been especially successful as both policies fail to decrese demand for drugs. A third policy option is drug education but here too, the results have been less than inspiring.

Common libertarian proposals vary from decriminalization of marijuana and a relaxation of enforcement against hard drug users to the legalization of all illicit drugs. They may be on to something. Evidence from Switzerland, the Netherlands and other countries that have experimented with liberalizing drug laws suggest that demand for drugs among teens has decreased immediately following decriminalization or legalization with some moderate increase thereafter. Whether this would work in the U.S., I am not sure.

ISM Activist Tristan Anderson Critically Injured

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I have been reading on the IMCs and in the mainstream media about Tristan Anderson, an International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist from the SF Bay Area who was hit in the head by a high-velocity tear gas canister while attending a protest in Ni’lin.

When I first read about his injuries in the NYT, the paper noted his previous stint as a tree-sitter at the University of California, Berkeley. The SF Chronicle published a similar story. As I dug deeper I discovered Mr. Anderson had much wider activist experience, including protests in Mexico and South America as well as the “Battle of Seattle.” Given my own history I wondered if I had met Tristan in the past, maybe at a demonstration or meeting the two of us had attended. I am fairly certain friends in the Bay Area know him and are concerned about his condition and hope he makes a speedy recovery.

YNet reports:

An American national was seriously injured Friday during a rally against the separation fence being built in the West Bank village of Naalin, apparently after being hit by a tear gas canister.

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) identified the man injured as Tristan Anderson, 37, of California. He was rushed to the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer for medical treatment.

The Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Office confirmed the report, adding that the incident was being looked into. The army also said that some 400 left wing Israeli, Palestinian and foreign activists had arrived at the area while violating a closed military area order, and that some of them, who were veiled, had hurled stones at the security forces, who responded with crowd dispersal means.

Anarchists Against the Wall notes:

The impact of the projectile caused numerous condensed fractures to Anderson’s forehead and right eye socket. During the operation, part of his right frontal lobe had to be removed, as it was penetrated by bone fragments. A brain fluid leakage was sealed using a tendon from his thigh, and both his right eye and skin suffered extensive damage. The long term scope of all of Tristan’s injuries is yet unknown.

I could not help but notice numerous mainstream media reports of the ISM as a “pro-Palestinian” organization but mention nothing of the group’s anti-Zionism or the recklessness of its confrontations with the IDF. If you did not know any better you would think they represent the second coming of the Civil Rights Movement. However, the ISM is a known supporter of Palestinian terrorism and the vast majority of ISM activists are aware of this support when they volunteer.

Alex Stein (False Dichotmies) who has been to similar demonstrations in the past had this to say:

I can testify to the heavy-handed tactics employed by the IDF, tactics that are not employed when it comes to dealing with settler demonstrations…Most of the forty protesters were drawn from the anarchist movement, a fact reflected in their incendiary slogans, in which the IDF was frequently referred to as a “terrorist organisation”. While I do not share the politics of Anarchists against the Wall,  it’s a shame that other groups (Peace Now, Meretz etc) weren’t represented.

Regarding the settlers, how many times have their demonstrations resulted in the deaths of Israeli soldiers or civilians? If the answer is none, that might explain why the IDF is not as heavy-handed as when they are dealing with demos organized by Fatah, Hamas, or the ISM. As to why less radical groups avoid these gatherings, perhaps they are all too aware of the ISM’s tactics.

Here is comment from the Anderson family posted on Indybay:

We are deeply grateful for the love and support pouring in from Tristan’s friends and fellow activists around the world. It is moving to see how many people care for Tristan and are moved by his work championing social justice issues. We are proud of Tristan’s fierce courage, adventurous spirit, and his many travels to all corners of the globe.

Fierce courage? How about reckless stupidity? I can empathize with the family’s pain but not their failure to look honestly at what led to their son’s injury. Mr. Anderson willingly placed himself in the middle of a combat zone.

As I commented at Roland’s and Noga’s blogs (with some editing):

When Tristan and other ISM volunteers placed themselves in the mix with people throwing stones at the IDF, they knew they were asking for trouble. They knew these disturbances can escalate rapidly. But they volunteered to put themselves in harms way.

Some see this as valorous. I see it as lacking judgment.

I am sad Anderson was injured but activists need to be aware what happens when they play with folks security. They think they have the right to go to countries that are experiencing intense conflicts and expect special treatment. But the situation in Israel is not the same as that of UC Berkeley or UC Santa Cruz or the streets of Seattle.

Israel is very serious about security. Facing daily terrorist threats will do that. When American and European activists go overseas and align themselves with Israel’s enemies they need to think very carefully about what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Is it really in the name of peace or in order to reinforce their own delusional radical politics?

ism-ak

[ISM volunteers]

Rincon Pics

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Here are a few pics of Rincon, PR.

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This is the beach where we spent most of our time. It is located right next to the old marina (now defunct). We also went to “Steps” beach which is about 15 minutes away. Rincon is located on the western end of the island with the Atlantic Ocean on one side of town and the Caribbean Sea on the other. This beach is on the Caribbean side.

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Here is a pic of the inn.

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Paco, the local gato.

ADDED:

Since a few people have asked me about local cuisine (offline), I wanted to mention the Harbor Restaurant and Rincon Tropical. Both serve no-frills seafood in a causal environment. The Harbor is closer to the beach. They were out of lobster at Rincon Tropical so I had the prawns. Had the lobster at the Harbor. It was swimming in butter and garlic at both places. Sides range from the generic (french fries) to more local fare like rice and pigeon peas, tostones (thick fried plantains) or mashed plantains.

We also ate at some even lower-key spots. On the weekends at the beach pictued above, a couple operate a small shack that sells chicken kabobs (pinchos) and rice and pigeon peas. I picked up three pinchos for $4.50 and the rice and peas for my semi-veggie wife ($2). With the addition of a small salad, it made a nice lunch. The Club Nautico located at the same beach has a bar that reminds me of coastal Mexican cantinas. They have a very small restaurant in the back. I was skeptical but when I saw the food another couple ordered it looked pretty good. I had two chicken tacos and she had the quesadilla. After a day at the beach it was damn good. The salsa was spicy, all the vegetables tasted fresh. It was also very inexpensive. We both left full for six bucks. No pics this time.

Away for a few days

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I will be away from my blog for a few days. My wife and I are taking a belated anniversary and bday (hers) vacation. It is also an opportunity for the two of us to take a trip before the baby is born. Our destination is Rincon, PR. There is snow outside my window here in Brooklyn and it is 85 degrees in Rincon. I can’t wait to hit the beach. I’ll post some pics and provide an update when I return.

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[Rincon, Puerto Rico]

Indymedia Activist Killed by Fellow Leftists?

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Brad Will, an activist for the Independent Media Center (IMC) of New York, was killed in Oaxaca, Mexico in October 2006 while covering protests organized by the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca—APPO (Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca). The APPO, New York IMC, and other left-wing media immediately placed the blame on pro-government paramilitaries (see pic. below).

However, the Mexican government recently charged three individuals affiliated with the APPO, Octavio Pérez, Juan Moreno, and Hugo Colmenares, with Mr. Will’s murder. Rather than examining the government’s evidence against these men, leftists claim the arrests are clearly part of a “broader crackdown” on anti-government activism in Oaxaca and the entire country. The Friends of Brad Will website maintains Mr. Will was killed by Mexican officials and is calling for a hunger strike at the office of New York Senator Hillary Clinton.

You can read a report in the NYT here. I find it interesting that the reporter refers to the loons at Indymedia as “left leaning” (rather than anti-capitalist and anti-American revolutionaries) while using the term “thugs” to refer to the right-wing paramilitaries. What do you expect from the paper that refuses to call terrorists by their rightful appellation?

Ingrid Betancourt and 14 Other Hostages Freed by Colombian Special Forces

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I thought I was dreaming this morning when I heard in a half-awake state that Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages, including three American Pentagon contractors, were rescued from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). According to media reports, Colombian special forces were able to free Ms. Betancourt and the other hostages without firing a single shot. This is another important victory for Colombian President Uribe and the Columbian armed forces.

The Economist provides some details on the operation:

The rescue operation involved years of planning. But it was also testament to the army’s new sophistication in intelligence and infiltration. The army built on its recent successes in disrupting the FARC’s communications and isolating its leaders. An attempt to rescue other guerrilla hostages in 2003 had ended in disaster, when a dozen were killed by their captors.

This time the army relied on trickery. A former hostage who escaped last year supplied details of the jungle camps in the remote south-eastern departments of Guaviare and Vaupés. Army intelligence agents, posing as senior FARC members, made contact with the guerrilla commander guarding the hostages. They gave him a false order purporting to be from the FARC’s new leader, Alfonso Cano, that the hostages were to be taken to two helicopters sent by a humanitarian organisation—mimicking the arrangements when five other captives were released earlier this year after mediation by Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez.

Once on board the helicopters, the two guerrilla escorts were overpowered and the army agents, dressed in Che Guevara T-shirts, broke the news to the hostages that they were flying to an army base and freedom. “We couldn’t believe it. The helicopter nearly fell because we jumped for joy,” said Ms Betancourt.

While much of the international press attention has focused on Ms. Betancourt, the three American contractors released were the longest held US captives in the world. The International Herald Tribune reports Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell had been held since February 2003.

More from IHT:

The U.S. and Colombian governments learned the hostages’ location “any number of times” and planned several rescue missions during their five years in captivity, but the difficulty of extracting them alive has prevented the missions from being carried out, according to a U.S. government official in Washington who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of intelligence matters.

Last month, Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said soldiers had spotted the three men in the southern jungles, but they disappeared into the forest before the troops could attempt a rescue.

And after the men were freed Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield said U.S. and Colombian forces cooperated closely on the rescue mission, including sharing intelligence, equipment, training advice and operational experience.

The Guardian claims this is a “mortal blow” for the Marxist narco-terrorist organization. While the Telegraph notes:

There are still some 25 political hostages in guerrilla hands, not to mention up to 700 Colombians being held by the FARC for ransom. The rebels began “collecting” the political hostages more than a decade ago, hoping to exchange them from hundreds of their comrades in prison.

After supporting the FARC with economic, intelligence and military assistance, President Chavez of Venezuela wants Betancourt’s release to “lead to an end to the war in its western neighbor,” Colombia.

President Uribe has taken a strong stance against the FARC but he has also stated his willingness to discuss peace if and when they are ready to sit down and talk. However, like the Palestinian terrorist apparatus, it is incredibly difficult to make peace with those who have sought the destruction of the state for over half a century.

[The clip below is from Reuters]