Close-up of Stela H at Copan in Honduras, depicting the Mayan ruler Uaxaclajuun Ub’aah K’awiil (18 Rabbit). Flickr photograph by Youngrobv.
THE LIES ABOUT HONDURAS WE BELIEVED
by Jim Dorenkott
President Zelaya was ousted in a coup in the early hours of June 28, and flown in his pajamas to Costa Rica. The world recoiled and universally condemned it The coup outraged but the pro-coup spin hung out there believed by way too many people. Why?
Scripps Howard News Service published immediately after the coup this account, “Zelaya, encouraged by his friend Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, scheduled a vote to change the constitution so he could remain president after next year. .. The annoying thing about this power play is how Zelaya tried to use democracy ― he called for a vote ― to keep himself in office beyond his one allowed term.”
Was it just the conservative media? Sadly no as PBS’s Ray Suarez wrote 3 days after the coup, “Zelaya was ousted Sunday. He had tried to organize a referendum to end the constitutional limit on his presidential term. That enraged the country’s congress and armed forces.”
And even Al Jazeera repeated the phrase “after he tried to carry out a referendum to extend his term in office.” With the Christian Scientist Monitor repeating similar phrases a month later.
Fortunately, some people, though, stepped back to look at the facts, and began to understand that it was logically impossible for Zelaya to extend his term. Among those Alberto Vallente Thorensen an El Salvador lawyer writing in Counterpunch pictures the context of his ouster, “In their rage, the almighty gods of Honduran politics have punished an aspiring titan, President Manuel Zelaya, for attempting to give Hondurans the gift of participatory democracy. This generated a constitutional conflict that resulted in president Zelaya’s banishment and exile”
Most importantly Thorensen urges us to be less gullible when we hear these stories. “… If we, the spectators, are not attentive to these words, we risk succumbing intellectually, willfully accepting the facts presented by the angry coup-makers and Honduran gods of politics.” This for sure happened even in Latin America where polls showed that 50% there believed the official line.
He explains that when the Supreme Court ruled Zelaya couldn’t legitimately carry out a referendum so close to an election he made it informal. “The poll was certainly non-binding, and therefore also not subject to prohibition.”
Even if it had been a referendum which it wasn’t, “the objective was not to extend Zelaya’s term in office. In this sense, it is important to point out that Zelaya’s term concludes in January 2010. In line with article 239 of the Honduran Constitution of 1982, Zelaya is not participating in the presidential elections of November 2009, meaning that he could have not been reelected.” It is now pretty obvious that Zelaya could not have extended his term in office.
The Constitution left over from the oligarchy military rule days needs revision or replacement. Would that have allowed Zeleya to extend his term?
“Moreover, it is completely uncertain what the probable National Constituent Assembly would have suggested concerning matters of presidential periods and re-elections. These suggestions would have to be approved by all Hondurans and this would have happened at a time when Zelaya would have concluded his term. Likewise, even if the Honduran public had decided that earlier presidents could become presidential candidates again, this disposition would form a part of a completely new constitution.
“Therefore, it cannot be regarded as an amendment to the 1982 Constitution and it would not be in violation of articles 5, 239 and 374.”
So Zelaya duly elected President is in exile much like Haiti’s President Aristide and the attempted kidnapping of Venezuela’s President Chavez. Critics of US behaviour describe its complicity in a range from the typical green light to dragging its feet at restoring democracy.
In the meantime many Hondurans every day risk their lives to demand the restoration of their democracy. Understanding how we have been misled by the media accounts is very important in supporting their efforts and in refuting the propaganda which has been so unbelievably successful at misleading so many.