Reports of a Deal in Honduras Are Premature
By Al Giordano
US officials and commercial media organizations are popping champagne corks prematurely over a reported US-brokered “deal” to return Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to (limited) power, but the two sides that reportedly signed the agreement already disagree over what exactly it says.
Reuters reports that coup “president” Micheletti has agreed to step down:
”I have authorized my negotiating team to sign a deal that marks the beginning of the end of the country’s political situation,” Micheletti told reporters on Thursday night.
He said Zelaya could return to office after a vote in Congress that would be authorized by the country’s Supreme Court. The deal would also require both sides to recognize the result of a Nov. 29 presidential election and would transfer control of the army to the top electoral court.
If approved by Congress, Zelaya would be able to finish out his presidential term, which ends in January. It was not clear what would happen to other elements o f the agreement if Congress votes against Zelaya’s restoration.
(Bold type mine, for emphasis.)
But Micheletti’s claim that a Congressional vote to restore Zelaya would require Supreme Court authorization is a flat out lie, according to a source with Zelaya inside his Brazilian Embassy refuge in Tegucigalpa: “That is what the golpistas have put out, but that is NOT the accord… The Supreme Court gives its non-binding opinion to the Congress, but the key is that all of this takes time, time that the golpistas want to keep taking.”
While there is some healthy distrust already over whether Congress will gin up on its end and really vote to restore Zelaya, that probably will be easier to accomplish than many believe. Two words: Pepe Lobo. The National Party candidate for President, Lobo is leading in the polls. He obviously wants very much for the November 29 “elections” to become internationally recognized elections. His party holds 55 of 128 seats in Honduras’ unicameral legislature, just ten short of a majority. There are at least 22 Liberal Party members that have publicly indicated they want Zelaya back as president, plus 11 minor party legislators most of whom are likely to go along with such a deal. Faced with such a patchwork majority, look for most of the 62 Liberal Party members in Congress to fold and go with the flow. The Congressional vote is not likely to prove a stumbling block to implementing this agreement.
The real problem could be the authoritarian Supreme Court. Micheletti’s invention of a non-existent clause in the agreement, one that requires the court’s approval of it, points to where the stalling tac tic will come from. This is the same Supreme Court that carried out the coup d’etat on June 28 and has micro-managed the regime’s affairs all summer and fall on a level that would not be appropriate or legal in most countries. Because Honduras’ 1982 Constitution is such a self-conflicted document with many articles that contradict each other, the court has been cherry-picking which laws to discard and which to interpret, often badly.
What the summer of 2009 in Honduras has demonstrated is that democracies need not only worry about excesses of executive branch power. In this case, it is the judicial branch that proved the primary and most dangerous usurper of democracy.
If Micheletti keeps insisting that this so-called “agreement” requires Supreme Court ratification, look for this game to go into extra innings before any resolution can happen.
On the other hand, if Secretary Clinton and her team of negotiation babysitters got their ducks and supreme court members in line ahead of time – reflecting a level of attention to detail that they haven’t displayed all summer long – then, yes, this deal would be likely to succeed.
The devil will be in the details, and their implementation. Until it’s clear that the Supreme Court or Congress won’t stand in the way, there is no deal.
And I’ll repeat: The problem won’t likely come from Congress, but, rather, a continuance of the real problem all along: the despotic, arbitrary and anti-democracy tendencies of the Honduras Supreme Court.
Update: Pepe Lobo weighs in, exactly as we predicted he would:
"We are willing to be cooperative in Congress with the agreement of the negotiators," Porfirio Lobo, a National Party lawmaker who is favored to win the Nov. 29 presidential elections, said Friday. "The best decision for Honduras will be taken."
(And it's worth noting, once again, how embarrassingly clumsy and wrongheaded the La La Land prognostications are from a certain golpista corner of the Ugly American diaspora of the expat community in Honduras. Last night, the anonymous blogger who calls herself La Gringa told her gullible readers: "presidential candidate Pepe Lobo is asking the Nacionalistas to abstain." The sheer stupidity and inability to deduce what is in Lobo's best interests is staggering, but also typical.)
Update II: Statement from the National Resistance Front Against the Coup d'Etat:
1. We celebrate the coming restitution of President Manuel Zelaya Rosales as a popular victory over the cruel interests of the golpista oligarchy. This victory has been won through more than four months of struggle and sacrifice by the people, that in spite of the savage repression unleashed by the repressive corps of the state in the hands of the dominant class has known how to resist and grow in conscience and organization becoming an uncontainable social force.
2. The Dictatorship's signature on the document that establishes "the return of the executive branch to its status prior to June 28" represents explicit acceptance of what in Honduras had been a coup d'etat that must be removed to return to institutional order and guarantee a democratic environment in which the people can make use of its right to transform society.
3. We demand that the agreements that are signed at the negotiating table be ratified expeditiously by the National Congress. In that sense, we alert all our compañeros and compañeras nationwide to join in the pressure actions so that the document is complied with immediatley.
4. We reiterate that the National Constituent Assembly is an absolute aspiration of the Honduran people and a nonnegotiable right for which we will continue struggling in the streets, until achieving the refoundation of society to exist in justice, equality and true democracy.
"AFTER 125 DAYS OF STRUGGLE NOBODY GIVES UP"
Tegucigalpa, M.D.C. 30 de octubre de 2009
(Translated by Narco News.)
Update III: I've now uploaded a .pdf copy of the agreement signed in Tegucigalpa.
Update IV: And now, in English.