Really I do. I know it's been at least a month and a half since last I wrote but most of you that read this thing saw me whilst I traveled about in the States so you probably weren't reading my blog to check up on how I was doing anyway...if you were that's a bit strange. For the rest of you, you might want to consider your own culpability in this whole affair for having chosen to reside outside the confines of Central Pennsylvania...the onus is on you. Anyshway, I'm back from my month-long jaunt through Pa Dutch Country and what do I find upon my return but they've up and gone and had a coup in my absence...the audacity. It took me 3 days and lots of money to finally get back to my humble dwelling here in La Ceiba but I made it and am now ready to resume my transmissions from South of the Border. I thought to start by breaking this whole thing down for you all so that you can see the truth of the matter because as far as I can see CNN is lying and seems to be in bed with Telesur which is Hugo Chavez's state-owned cable company. I'll try to be posting daily to keep people abreast of the sitch down here but I found two great break-downs of the events leading up this whole blow up so I've simply pasted them in here. The first is an a well-balanced article from Christianity Today while the second is a neat narrative that highly reccommed reading.
Below is an analysis offered by Dr. Kurt Ver Beek, Calvin College professor, and Andrew Clouse, communications specialist with the Association for a More Just Society:
Political leaders from around the world are racing to be the first and loudest to condemn this past Sunday’s coup in Honduras. Everyone from President Obama to Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, from the United Nation’s general secretary to Fidel Castro, are denouncing the coup, threatening sanctions and calling for the return to office of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Yet why are so many Hondurans, including key evangelical leaders, so divided about the coup and Zelaya’s return?
It all starts with the constitution. The Honduran constitution has 379 articles—and all but four can be reformed. It’s one of these four non-negotiables that’s causing all the fuss. The article states that a Honduran president cannot be re-elected. Ever. One four-year term is the only shot a president can have. Nearly all Latin American countries wrote this into their constitutions during the 1970s and 1980s in an attempt to avoid their presidents’ tendency to use second terms to consolidate power and stay in office permanently.
So starting with president-turned-dictator-turned-fugitive Alberto Fujimori in Peru, and more recently including Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and now a little closer to home—Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Zelaya in Honduras—Latin American presidents have sought to reform their constitutions to permit re-election. In the last few years Venezuelan president Chavez has been building ALBA, a block of Latin American presidents designed to challenge the U.S. hegemony in the region. His country’s oil income in the form of finance grants, loans and political advisors serves as the carrot to entice presidents to join ALBA. And predictably enough, six of the nine members of the ALBA countries have or are trying to reform their constitutions to pave the way for their possible re-election.
Honduran president Zelaya began a full-out effort to reform the constitution in March of this year by announcing a referendum to be held Sunday, June 28—the day the coup took place—to determine whether the people wanted an assembly called to rewrite the constitution before presidential elections in November. Almost immediately, the country’s political, economic and many religious leaders began lining up against this effort. The Supreme Court ruled the referendum illegal; the Congress voted to sanction the president; the attorney general’s office began investigations into possible charges; both political parties—including the president’s own—condemned his actions; and church leaders like Evelio Reyes, pastor of one of the largest evangelical churches in Honduras, began holding high-profile prayer vigils each morning in front of government offices.
Had the president done a better job during his first three years in office, his efforts may have been more popular. However his administration has been plagued by ineffectiveness and myriad accusations of corruption. During his first year in office, his administration received over $4 billion in debt forgiveness—with the chief condition that any money not spent on debt was to be invested in reducing poverty. Many organizations, including Christian NGOs, worked for over a year to define how this money could be best invested. However, Zelaya ignored their efforts and instead tried to buy votes by spending 70 percent of the money on raises for teachers and health workers, and the rest on ineffective but politically powerful “cash coupons” for the rural poor. Zelaya has also failed to deliver on promises to build houses, promote land reform, build a new international airport and fight corruption. In the meantime, he has used public funds to finance a pro-government newspaper and TV station, flashy TV and radio ads and pro-government demonstrations. Zelaya did move beyond rhetoric early this year when he impetuously hiked the minimum wage by 60 percent. The raise was desperately needed, but its overnight implementation in an already-struggling economy led to thousands of minimum-wage job losses as many businesses found it impossible to make payroll.
In short, Zelaya’s record is dismal. And that fact has led many Hondurans, including most evangelicals, to be relieved to see his ineffective and corrupt administration come to an unexpected end. Pastor Evelio Reyes, in a speech to support the new government said, “We cannot tolérate these kinds of actions. No country in the world puts up with these types of barbarities, and Honduras won’t either because we have dignity.”
But the president does have his supporters. Despite his decidedly non-leftist background, Zelaya has managed to gain the support of some of the most radical social groups in Honduras by funding their organizations and protests and promising them seats at the constitutional assembly that would have rewritten the constitution. These groups are expert mobilizers and are now returning the favor by leading the increasingly violent protests seeking Zelaya’s return to office.
But other, less radical Hondurans and church leaders also disapprove of the coup. First, the rhetoric Zelaya used during the last three months to promote a rewrite of the constitution touched a nerve for many Hondurans, including evangelicals. Zelaya’s speeches as well as very professional TV and radio ads (designed by Venezuelan advisors) argued that the 70 percent of the Honduran population who live on less than $2 a day have seen little benefit from 20 plus years of democratic rule in which a political and economic elite have run the country and everything in it for their own illicit gain. Zelaya said it was time to hear the “voice of the people” and that reforming the constitution was a good first step in getting that voice heard. This message resonated with the poor and those, including many Christians, concerned about issues of poverty and injustice. Mario Cantor, an evangelical pastor in a marginal urban community, said this:
“The majority of people who supported the cuarta urna (the “fourth ballot box”) believed that the constitution needed to be reformed to be more inclusive. According to some, the constitution excluded certain sectors of the community. So they believe that there is a need to create a constitution that allows the people to have more participation in the country´s decisions. Zelaya himself was talking about a more equitable society, where distribution of wealth is fairer, talking about the common good, as Jesus did.”
In addition, many Hondurans and Honduran Christians are uncomfortable with the military’s role in Zelaya’s ouster, fearing a return to the situation of the 1970s and 1980s when the military was clearly the power behind the president. This was an era of fear, violence and corruption that few Hondurans care to relive. They argue that like him or not, if Zelaya was breaking the law, he should have been charged and tried instead of forcibly removed from his home and flown to Costa Rica. And they are uneasy hearing reports of suspended civil liberties and protesters detained.
They want the democratic system to work the way it is supposed to. As megachurch pastor Rene Peñalba stated, Zelaya’s goal “in itself was not bad, but he got the method wrong. And I would say the same about the other side. [Zelaya] deserved to go to trial, but they got the method wrong. Both sides got it wrong.”
While the fear of an oversized role of the military is understandable, it seems clear that they were an ambivalent partner in the ouster, directed by a small but powerful political and economic elite. Although initially Zelaya’s allies in carrying out the referendum, the military has shifted since there was clearly little enthusiasm for the task. Just days before the referendum, Zelaya fired the chief general and the rest of the general’s staff quit in solidarity. Zelaya and his supporters staged a dramatic showdown at a military warehouse to get the ballots while the military stood silently by. And most obviously, while the military carried out the arrest and flew Zelaya to Costa Rica, they did not seize power but immediately installed the president of Congress as President of the country.
What’s clear among all the conflict is that all the existing powers in Honduras—the ruling elite, the Zelaya administration, and the military—show by their rhetoric that they recognize what most ordinary Hondurans want—to live in a country where their voice will be heard and where true democracy and rule of law flourish.
Carlos Hernandez, president of the Association for a More Just Society, a Christian social justice organization in Honduras, argues, “As Christians we need to make the legal systems work for everyone—from the poorest Honduran to the most powerful. So first of all, Zelaya should return to the country and there should be a full investigation into his actions. If he has broken laws, he should be tried and sentenced—not sent to Costa Rica without a trial. Second, we should also push for an investigation into who was responsible for this coup and they should also be investigated and tried. It is only then, by showing that neither side is above the law and that neither side can take the law into their own hands, that we can show the world that justice for all is possible, even in Honduras.”
Imagine this scenario. A parallel universe if you will:It is late 1975. The impeachment Trial of Richard M. Nixon is in full swing. But Mr Nixon has already stated that regardless of the result of the trial he is going to remain president. What is more he is calling for a referendum, to be held next Sunday.This referendum will call for the establishment of new constitutional convention. This constitutional convention will be elected through a special urn set up at the next presidential election, from candidates hand-picked by the president himself. What's more president Nixon refuses to tell us what amendments to the constitution will be presented by this constitutional convention, though people assume that it will include a lifting of all term limits and a centralization of power in the executive branch.The Supreme Court has ruled definitively against Mr .Nixon, telling him such a referendum is itself unconstitutional . Both Houses of congress including all democrats and All republicans- have unanimously condemned the referendum as unconstitutional. Vice president Gerald Ford has resigned, stating the president no longer has his support. Richard Nixon appoints HIMSELF vice president. He does not care that this is blatantly unconstitutional. after all as he says "if the president does it , that means it is not illegal" The congress cuts off ALL FUNDING to the executive branch. No matter. The executive branch has money to burn... where is all this money coming from? It seems from his new powerful friend ....-Because what is perhaps most alarming is president Nixon's close relationship with his new best friend; Mao Zedong of the People's republic of China. All the ballots for the illegal referendum have been manufactured in China . Planes filled with ballots (and many believe elite Chinese commandos) are landing hourly in airports across the USA. They are all Chinese in origin.The referendum is set for Sunday. It is Wednesday. The president asks all governors to sent out the national guard to protect the ballots and provide security on the day of the referendum. They all refuse.Thursday: President Nixon calls in the head of the Joint chiefs of Staff and orders him to use the United states armed forces to provide logistical support and security for the referendum. He refuses pointing out the unconstitutionality of this order. President Nixon fires the Head of the Joint Chiefs of staff. The secretary of defense along with all the top commanders of the army , air force, marines navy etc. all hand in their resignations in an act of solidarity with the Head of the Joint chiefs.The Supreme Court releases an emergency injunction stating that the dismissal of the Joint Chief was itself unconstitutional. The supreme court also (once again) orders that the referendum not occur.That evening the US Air Force takes over the Chinese planes with the ballots. the planes and the ballots are impounded and taken to hangars at Air force bases across the USA.Friday: President Nixon wakes up to the news that his ballots are impounded. He gathers members of the news media and 500 radical Maoist student leaders (think weather underground) . This mob, With president Nixon at its head, Hijacks 8 DC metro transit buses. President Nixon drives the commandeered buses to Andrews Air Force Base, where the mob proceeds to tear down a fence and storm the hangars. To avoid bloodshed the air force gives Nixon and his Maoist mob the ballots.A new wave of ballot stuffed Chinese planes, guarded by elite Chinese commandos land in airports across the USA. The Chinese commandos state they have orders to fight to the death to make sure the ballots go out and "the peoples will" is obeyed on Sunday.The air force decides not to interfere.Maoist students drive up to the airports and collect the ballots. They along with, and under supervision of, the Chinese special forces will provide the logistical and security support for the referendum on Sunday.Saturday: This afternoon President Nixon addresses the nation. In a multi hour screed, he talks about his desire for peace in the country. He talks about the elites and how they crush the American spirit, as well as their personal vendetta against him poor Richard Nixon. He reads from the bible. He states that God "speaks and acts through him". He bursts into tears on several occasions. He starts singing church hymns. in effect he has a full blown mental breakdown on national T.V. This goes on and on and on FOR HOURS. He concludes by stating that tomorrow the American people will enact the will of god through the referendum.Sunday 3:30 AM: The supreme court in an emergency meeting writes a warrant for the arrest of Richard m Nixon.Sunday 3:45 AM: Elite members of the Delta force and navy seals break into the white house and essentially kidnap Richard M Nixon. He is driven to Andrews air force base. He is put on Air force one. Air Force One flies to Dublin Ireland, where Nixon still in his pajamas is rather unceremoniously dumped on the tarmac. He is unharmed. Air force one takes off and returns to USA without him.That morning the national guard breaks into the headquarters of the Maoist radical student groups and take back the ballots. The ballots are transported to their bases and burned.That afternoon the Speaker of the House is sworn in as the New president of the United states. In his inaugural address he reiterates time and time again that the presidential elections of 1976 will take place. The new President ends his speech by stating "Long live democracy! Long live the Constitution! Long live the United States of America!"MAO Zedong goes on live television and states that China is now in a state of war against the USA. He threatens a full blown military invasion of the USA in order to restore Richard Nixon to power and " defend democracy against military dictatorship."Bizarrely; instead of laughing at Mao, the rest of the world joins him and condemns the "military coup- d'etat" The united nations OEA the European union, Japan, United kingdom Canada Mexico etc all condemn" the " Military take over" of the United States stating that it is reminiscent of the dark days of WWII.Nixon, accompanied by the Secretary of foreign Relations of Communist China, addresses the UN general assembly. He vows to return to the USA in the next 48 hours.World Opinion is firmly in favor of Nixon. Meanwhile in the USA, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators take over the national mall central park etc, protesting in favor of the constitution, against Chinese meddling in US affairs, and against the idea of returning Nixon to the presidency.Sound far fetched? The names and countries are obviously different, but this is a true and accurate summary of the events of the last week in Honduras.
CAST OF CHARACTERS:
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA : HONDURAS
RICHARD M. NIXON: JUAN MANUEL " MEL " ZELAYA
PEOPLES REPUBLIC OF CHINA : REPUBLICA BOLIVARIANA DE VENEZUELA
MAO ZEDONG : HUGO CHAVEZ