It’s Still a Military Coup in Honduras

By Al Giordano

“No one owes obedience to an usurper government nor to those who through force of weapons assume public functions or positions…. The acts of such authorities have no legal standing, and the people have the right to resort to insurrection in defense of the Constitutional order.”

- Article 3, Constitution of the Republic of Honduras

Two weeks and more than forty Narco News reports ago when on another Sunday morning military soldiers kidnapped Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, I quoted some words that our Mexican colleague Mario Menéndez Rodríguez had said to me during the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela: that people reveal their true character during times of moral crisis.

We’ve watched, listened, and reported as diplomats have deluded themselves (and insist to others) that “diplomacy” alone can solve all problems, as coup defenders remain stuck in the Oligarch Diaspora’s “Chávez Derangement Syndrome” and cling to a fantastically false spin about the oxymoronic concept of a “legal coup,” and as some of their counterparts on the academic left got stuck fighting past wars with their own brand of “Obama Derangement Syndrome,” and one probably could have, sadly, predicted each of their formulaic reactions in advance.

For all the talk of “democracy” – both sides of the Honduras dispute claim that flag, but only the coup opponents have a clue as to what it means – I’ve heard very few voices out there that have, really, any devotion to authentic democracy when the going gets tough.

That’s as true of journalists and communicators as it is for everyone else. We've watched the corporate media correspondents slip into their old comfortable shoes of disinformation, while a certain sector of left media shrunk from the duty to combat such simulation but, rather, obsessed more narrowly on their sputtering spin that this was somehow “Obama’s coup.” (If it is not, then that would require more self-reflection of their own presumptions than their hurting brains care to shoulder: it has been seemingly easier for some to remain on automatic pilot, the facts and new geopolitical realities be damned.)

Meanwhile, we’ve done and are doing what is in our character to do: Investigate, report and analyze the hard news, while exposing its simulation by the dominant corporate media.

Others have done that very well, too: We’ve already praised the singular work of TeleSur, and also of the courageous Hondurans who have broken the information blockade from below, filming coup abuses and the massive protests against them on their cell phones and uploading important videos to YouTube. And we’ve cheered as many corporate media organizations have become dependent on those reports-from-below in their own coverage.

I’d like to add another media that deserves such recognition: Few have done the heavy lifting that Chiapas Indymedia has done, mainly in Spanish, to publish the communiqués, photos and videos that document the massive and organized nature of the Honduran grassroots movements with which it has worked and supported for years. (While the world mostly ignored Honduras in recent years, Chiapas Indymedia was shipping community radio transmitters and organizing communications workshops among Catrachos; that planting and cultivating bears significant fruit today in the information that does break out from behind the walls of censorship and simulation). Too often lost in the past two weeks of media coverage has been the documentation and distribution of the struggle from below in its own words.

The photo, above, was taken on Friday by Chiapas Indymedia veteran Tiros. There were even larger blockades and marches on Saturday, as this communiqué we received (and now translate) from the Honduran Comun-Noticias organization, which reports on yesterday’s mass marches toward the capital city of Tegucigalpa from many directions:

Thousands of demonstrators, who closed one lane of the Siguatepeque-Tegucigalpa highway for the entire day, arrived Friday afternoon in Comayagua, where they joined the marches in the city’s main streets and the occupation of Central Park.

Despite that some drivers tried to pass the organized lines of the demonstrators, the people did not retreat and impeded the traffic of oil tankers and trucks that transported the products of pro-coup businesses…

Today, Saturday, July 11, they headed on foot toward the capital accompanied by unions, the Popular Bloc, housewives, campesinos and workers to join with hundreds more who await the return of Manuel Zelaya and demand that the de facto rulers headed by Roberto Micheletti be sentenced to prison.

The roads between Comayagua and Tegucigalpa are partially paralyzed because the marchers fill one of its lanes, accompanied by sound trucks, anti-coup banners and signs that demonstrate the resistance by the Honduran people…

Comun-Noticias is the authentic media organization whose 18-year-old participant and free software expert Carlos Bueso had been arrested in the early days of the coup and charged with “sedition.” He was only released after an international outcry. Their communicators each take similar risks to their safety and freedom to get this word out to you. And yet from the international corporate media we hear only crickets in place of the reporting of this ongoing story of resistance to the coup.

The epicenter of the coup and its resistance is inside Honduras, but the media circus focuses on events in foreign capitals from San José to Caracas to Washington DC. The international media routinely aims its cameras and keypads at events up above, ignoring the more outcome-determinative struggle from below.

And so we must do both: continue to report to you on the movement from below while also disarming the falsehoods imposed from above.

Take the latest from Miami Herald ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos, for example. He claims, in his “summary” of events in Honduras, that “the military never seized power.” Yet his own recount of his own newspaper’s coverage disproves that very claim:

“But the military on its own, according to what the army lawyer told Robles, illegally sent the president out of the country instead of hauling him into court. He said the fear was that if Zelaya stayed in the country, there might be street violence, which is what happened when Zelaya tried to fly back. Arresting a president has little precedence anywhere, and the army lawyer was breathtakingly honest in a story no one else had.”

The Los Angeles Times’ rookie Mexico correspondent Tracy Wilkinson offers a similar incredulous spin, portraying events in Honduras as “A New Kind of Coup,” as if this putsch is really a shiny newborn bauble for the professional simulators to play with.

Yet Wilkinson and Schumacher-Matos, and the others forwarding similar fairy tales, need only read the very same Miami Herald's interview with Honduran Colonel Herberth Bayardo Inestroza to easily come to terms with how this coup is the same as any other military coup; one in which the only government possible is severely limited by the top-down dictates of the military brass. The Colonel freely admitted:

“It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That's impossible.”

That was the interview in which he also admitted that the coup was illegal:

''We know there was a crime there,'' said Inestroza, the top legal advisor for the Honduran armed forces. ``In the moment that we took him out of the country, in the way that he was taken out, there is a crime. Because of the circumstances of the moment this crime occurred, there is going to be a justification and cause for acquittal that will protect us.''

In other words, if the military sets the terms for a puppet “civilian government” (i.e. you can “govern” but not from the left, no matter what the voters say, that would be “impossible”), then it is still military rule no matter how you slice it: that of unelected generals and colonels determining their very narrow and authoritarian limits of “government.” Democracy is impossible under those circumstances.

As a club, the US and European correspondents in Latin America have very short memories. The fact is that virtually every military coup of the past 55 years in this hemisphere has offered the pretense of supposed illegality by the democratically elected government it deposed as its excuse for the coup. As I pointed out the other day, the Oligarch Diaspora still claims that the 1973 coup in Chile – the most notorious and widely disgraced of them all – was somehow “legal,” justified by a Congress that accused President Salvador Allende of violating the law. This is how military coups have always been set up, and most, just like in Honduras, have established after-the-fact civilian paint jobs over their illegitimate regimes.

And it's important to remember that it wasn't civilian police authorities that shut down TV and radio stations even after the "civilian" coup government was formed, it was the Armed Forces. And last Sunday, when President Zelaya attempted to land in the country that elected him, the air traffic control tower at Toncontin International Airport instructed the pilot of his plane that the airfield was for "exclusive use of the Honduras Armed Forces." So much for the "civilian" authorities.

The LA Times’ Wilkinson apparently knows nothing of the true history of coups d’etat in this hemisphere. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be embarrassing herself and her newspaper by claiming that there is anything “new” to the Honduran version.

Meanwhile, where is the reporting from below on the real story from Honduras? We’ve mentioned that of TeleSur, Chiapas Indymedia, Narco News and most importantly the work of grassroots Hondurans, their websites and YouTube pages. I'll add to that the email reports by Lisa Sullivan and others of School of the Americas Watch, and Swedish reporter Dick Emanuelsson's on-the-ground audio and written reports from Honduras, as well as Aporrea.org's ever-attentive eye to struggles from below. If I’ve missed any others, I apologize in advance. Still, so much of the “left” media is AWOL in that struggle. It has fallen right into the corporate media trap of obsessing almost exclusively on the circus up above, sharing in its effect of making the struggles of the people from below invisible to the world.

Whether one has a favorable or negative view of Fidel Castro in Cuba, nobody can deny with a straight face that he is a very astute observer of US policy and power. Indeed, nobody has outwitted Washington more and for a longer time than he.

Eva Golinger (my single paragraph critique of her first coup report launched polemics of many paragraphs in a certain narrow sector of the academic left, and by and large I think she's adjusted and done a better, if still at times trying to connect dots that don't connect, job since then) has translated a recent column by Castro adding the title, “Fidel’s Reflections on the Honduras Coup – Mentions my work!”

Special attention ought to be paid to Castro’s conclusions based on his characteristically voracious reading of all the information available:

“If President Zelaya is not returned to his position, a wave of coups threatens to sweep away many Latin American governments, or these will be at the mercy of the ultra right-wing military, educated in the security doctrine of the School of the Americas, an expert in torture, psychological warfare and terror. The authority of many civilian governments in Central and South America will become weakened. Those dark days are not very far back in time. The military perpetrators of the coup would not even pay any attention to the civilian administration of the United States. It can be very negative for a president who wants to improve that country’s image, like Barack Obama does. The Pentagon formally obeys the civilian power. The legions have not yet taken over control of the empire as they did in Rome.”

In sum, Castro recognizes that, unlike in Honduras, the military in the United States “formally obeys the civilian power.” He also views US President Obama as “a president who wants to improve that country’s image,” noting, in that light, that the Honduran coup is a profoundly inconvenient development for the new US administration’s overriding goals in the region. El Comandante is working with the very same accurate and updated hemispheric road map that we are, here. That's probably been helpful, too, to influence Venezuelan President Chávez to make the helpful adjustments he has made in his analysis since the first days of the coup.

I mentioned to a colleague yesterday that if, as is likely, Secretary Hillary Clinton’s placing all her eggs in the basket of the diplomacy and mediation circus in Costa Rica fails to restore Zelaya unconditionally to the presidency, and that failure subsequently leads to encourage another coup in another Latin American country, that could well mean that Clinton’s is a head that will have to roll from the administration. The tightly-knit Chicago group that is the ultimate power in the White House – Obama, Axelrod, Emanuel, Jarrett, et al – have always been quick to toss any “freelancers” off the bus upon first offense. They have never historically suffered underlings who utilized their positions to attempt to outmaneuver them. Nor is it helpful to Secretary Clinton that her former right-hand Lanny Davis has signed up as a paid operative on behalf of the Honduran coup defenders. The devil will be in the outcome, and so will the consequences.

But enough about the circus up above, even though we devote those words to critique of it: More telling of the authentic news story from Honduras is the photo that begins these words of Friday’s successful blockade of one of the country’s central arteries, with reports of the same happening throughout the country.

The Honduran civil resistance may be ignored by the international media, and vociferously denied by those in the Oligarch Diaspora that spam the Twitter feeds and comments sections of the blogosphere claiming that gatherings of hundreds and thousands of dissidents were "only fifty people" and other such bold and wishful lies.

The Honduran Civil Resistance offers the faster path than any talks in San José toward ridding the country, and the hemisphere, of the cancer that began as, and continues to be, nothing “new” at all: Just another in a long line of industrial-strength military coups, in which the generals decree the parameters by which “civilian” subsidiaries may simulate government.

Update: Late last night, the journalists of TeleSur were arrested on orders of the Honduran coup. After being brought to a police headquarters and threatened, "get out of here, you need to go, you have nothing to do in this country," they are now under house arrest at their hotel under threat of expulsion from national territory. Nothing "new" about that kind of coup, either.

Update II: VTV reports that its journalists and those of TeleSur have been forcibly brought to the airport for expulsion from Honduras. Beyond this latest evidence that the coup is neither democratic nor values press freedom, it is worrisome because it reveals that the coup's next steps are likely so repressive and atrocious that it can't withstand reporting of it to the rest of the world.

 

Comments

Not coincidence every government in LatAm recognized threat

As I've been pointing out in comments or whatever I could do between working, it was not only completely obvious to every government in Latin America (including the ultra-right-wing, pro-oligarch governments of Felipe Calderon's Mexico and Alvaro Uribe's Colombia) that this was a military coup in Honduras;  it has also long been recognized that the entirety of the Honduran and Guatemalan political systems, for example, govern at the behest and by the permission of (and occasionally, like now, without it) the military.

Here's Obama administration nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs and famed Chilean-American political scientist Arturo Valenzuela -- whose academic speciality was the breakdown of democratic regimes in Latin America, and no leftist radical at that -- stating the utterly obvious in U.S. Senate testimony, as I translated via La Jornada:

[Valenzuela] added that "each time that the military, always backed by dissident civilian sectors, intervene to resolve a 'political crisis' or reverse the mandate of the electorate, one dangerously  damages the possibility of strengthening the rule of law and institutions of governance.  Returning to solutions which are un-Constitutional and anti-democratic cannot resolve the problems of democracy;  they have to be resolved according to Constitutional principles.

I would also give credit to the regional press, as significant coverage can (as usual) be found in newspapers and stations in Mexico, Costa Rica, and elsewhere.  Not as much or as immediate or on-the-ground as has been in Telesur and other sources cited above, but still worthy for any Spanish-language readers.

But that's often the story -- during the days of Reagan's open wars against Central American civilians, even the right wing press of Latin America was far better at covering those wars and their human costs than the U.S. press (with occasional and usually suppressed exceptions).

Speaking of free-lancers (OT, but not that much)

Now that Attorney General Holder is considering the appointment of a prosecutor to investigate Bush-era torture, reported here

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-07-12/torture-prosec...

and here

http://www.newsweek.com/id/206300

I wonder what y'all think of the emerging meme ("it's Holder the Independent vs. Rahm Emanuel the Enforcer, etc.")

One thing I'm concerned

One thing I'm concerned about is that there have been various published attempts to argue, with reference to provisions in the Honduran constitution, that the coup was legal, but I haven't seen a thorough debunking of these claims. For example, the constitution says that someone seeking or advocating to change term limits is no longer president, and that the security forces are authorized to enforce the decisions of the supreme court (which in this case ordered his arrest). I would think that the former provision cannot be self-executing, and that the latter provision should've said so specifically if it really meant to allow the judiciary to use the army against the president. But what do I know? We need a thorough response from someone knowledgeable of Honduran law. Please let us know if you come across something like this, in Spanish or English. Progressive Latin American law professors, where are you?

To Quote Fidel Castro further

Al-

You described Fidel Castro as an astute observer of Latin American politics.  This is completely true and accurate.

I ask others to recall Fidel's wise advice to President Chavez, that Hugo needed to ARM the people with weapons to forestall any coup attempt.  And readers will recall that shortly after the coup attempt against Chavez THOUSANDS of ARMED citizens took to the streets and the coup ended promptly thereafter.

Indeed, Chavez quoted Fidel on Alo Presidente shortly thereafter (and Fidel has said it in numerous speeches) that if the Chilean citizenry had been ARMED, then the coup against Allende never would have succeeded.

I was saying this very point here in this forum at the beginning of the coup, when others were expressing confidence in the "power" of twitters and bloggers.

Enough said.

Matt Dubuque

Democracy

As I follow the coup I can't help but come to the conclusion that the concept of democracy is a major hindrance to the greedy machinations of the corporate oligarchy and how important it is to break through their hold on the American worker's brain and more effectively regulate and control the damage capitalist assholes can wreak on people and societies.  Thanks Al for making it very clear what can and needs to be done to push back against these criminal assholes. 

Standing armires

Given the abysmal history of military coups in Latin America, one would suppose that all democratic governments would imitate Costa Rica and write into their constitutions a prohibition of standing armies.

The founders of the U.S. recognized the extreme danger of such military forces, but unfortunately did nothing to prevent them. If they had, we might even have health insurance, like Costa Rica.

Christopher Hyde

@Texan - Here is a paragraph

@Texan - Here is a paragraph from a previous post by Al that lists two such analyses.

"My point is that it doesn’t require any kind of divine birthright or special genetics to read and understand that document. In fact, two non-Hondurans, North American professor Greg Weeks (“Honduras: Summing Up Some Basic Points”) and Salvadoran attorney Alberto Valiente Thorensen ("Why Zelaya's Actions Were Legal") have offered, so far, the most astute analyses of how the Constitution applies to the current crisis in Honduras.'

JoAnn

@ Matthew

Matthew - You write that "And readers will recall that shortly after the coup attempt against Chavez THOUSANDS of ARMED citizens took to the streets and the coup ended promptly thereafter."

That is simply not accurate. The overturning of the coup, which we covered extensively as it happened, did not involve armed citizens. It was unarmed citizens (unarmed with guns, perhaps harmed with chain cutters and other tools to be used on property, not people) who overwhelmed the soldiers, took back Channel 8, and then informed the public that their president had not resigned, bringing hundreds of thousands more into the streets.

There were, of course, existing military units that turned against the coup, starting with the presidential guard and expanding through the Air Force and other units. But they didn't have to fire a single shot to overturn the coup.

As for the citizens, I don't know where you got the impression that those folks were armed. Certainly not from this newspaper's coverage of the story. It simply did not happen that way.

Re: One Thing I'm Concerned

Texan said: the constitution says that someone seeking or advocating to change term limits is no longer president

Zelaya never sought or advocated to change term limits.  His non-binding survey only asked the Honduran people if they would favor a constituent assembly to reform the constitution.

Another plea for a timeline

I again want to plead for a member of the Narcosphere to assemble a precise timeline of events leading up to the coup. The value of this is illustrated by the fact that Grahame Russell of Rights Action claims to have evidence that the planning of the coup began "months ago."  If it were four months ago, that would before Zelaya announced the plan for a sondeo (poll) that supposedly triggered the crisis.

Similarly, there are interesting claims made in mainstream media articles that could be confirmed or refuted. Wilkinson of the LAT article cited above states that "army commanders" fired "warning shots." This is at variance with early Reuters reports that claim that shots were fired only after the coup, when opponents started arriving at the palace. It also contradicts Zelaya's recollection that hooded soldiers (not commanders) were firing the shots, including machine guns. The first two narratives suggest an operation under tight control, acting either (a) defensively or (b) to prevent loss of life. The third narrative sounds like a terrorist attack.

Constructing an accurate timeline, highlighting differences between different narratives, would probably help more than any other piece of reporting to unravel the true story behind the coup.

(To preserve the integrity of the Narcosphere, this is the name under which I write about politics and have done since 9/11)

Al-

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets after the Venezuelan putsch.

Thousands of them were armed, including the citizen militias that Chavez had armed as a precaution.

This was according to both Chavez speaking on Alo Presidente and Fidel as well.

They were decisive in bringing down the coup, according to Fidel.

Wilkinson's headline is one of the worst I've seen so far

It is hard to think of what could be a more textbook old-style coup than the military kidnapping and deposing an elected leader and replacing him with a puppet. I don't understand how anybody could say with a straight face that such a turn of events is "not a coup".

Of course, when I actually started to read Wilkinson's column, I realized she was trying to claim that it was Zelaya who had engaged in the "new kind of coup". Talk about twisting reality!

Civilian Militia is a counterpoint

This is also what happens when an army really doesn't have a mission. Nations like the United States have real external enemies and real military commitments worldwide-which means the army as a good external as well as internal mission. In short they have a real purpose for existing, and a real job to do that keeps them busy. 

What purpose do most of the Central American and even most Latin American forces serve? Unlike European and Asian armies, there isn't a large potentially hostile nation in the same hemisphere that they need to defend against.. They have no outside military commitments, and the threat of invasion is very low. So why should they have a standing army?a

Whatever military needs they have could be served by the old-fashioned callup militia-soldiers who are called when needed, but who become civilians once they aren't. This would keep the military from becoming a separate caste from the civilians and end delusions of power.

Al-

I was in Cuba in the months after the coup was overturned. Mesa Redonda (Cuban TV's version of "Nightline") featured excerpts of Fidel lecturing, albeit gently, Hugo on "Alo Presidente" that as Fidel had previously told Hugo, ARMED citizen militias were decisive in overturning the Venezuelan coup, just as Fidel had told him beforehand.  

Fidel repeatedly brought up Arbenz and Allende during this lecture, stating that those coups also would have failed had the citizenry been armed.

Hugo's role in this interchange was basically, "Yes, Fidel, you were right, Yes Fidel, you were right.  Thank you Fidel for helping me overcome this coup."

You have labeled Fidel Castro an astute observer of Latin American politics.  This is precisely correct.  Let's not underestimate his knowledge as to the importance of an armed, disciplined citizen militia to keep tyranny in check.

Indeed, the US Constitution says as much with its provision for the right to bear arms in support of a WELL-REGULATED militia.

For some VIDEO footage on ONE aspect of critical role that weapons played in restoring Chavez to power, I refer you to the excellent documentary "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", available online and from Netflix.

At 55:30 it shows scores of Chavez' armed Presidential Guards storming the Presidential Palace and retaking it.

They were armed with automatic weapons.

It takes more than twitters and blogs to overturn a coup.

This is why Deng Xiao-Peng and Li Peng LAUGHED in Zhao Ziyang's face when he stated "I have the people of China behind me", shortly before the Tiananmen Square massacre.

All the fax machines from Hong Kong and Macao were crushed by the Chinese Army in Tiananmen square, despite the breathless predictions of US media that nothing could overcome the flurry of "pro-democracy" faxes into the mainland. 

Matt Dubuque

"Force cannot give right"

On this whole argument over "armed militias" and a standing military power, even though Jefferson advocated for the former and warned of the dangers of the latter, his bottom line is worth keeping in mind, whether it be in Venezuela or Honduras or in our own backyard:

"Instead of subjecting the military to the civil power, [a tyrant will make] the civil subordinate to the military. But can [he] thus put down all law under his feet? Can he erect a power superior to that which erected himself? He [can do] it indeed by force, but let him remember that force cannot give right." --Thomas Jefferson: Rights of British America

Sorry, Matthew, but It's Just Not True

Matthew - I don't know what claims Castro or Chávez may have made according to you, but I have watched every inch of footage available of how the 2002 coup in Venezuela was overturned, interviewed hundreds of those involved, and the citizenry was unarmed in its efforts to overturn the coup.

I challenge you to provide video or photographic evidence - there's plenty on YouTube already - to back up your point, which just seems to be that you're beating the drum for a "belief" you have that isn't borne out by history.

Yes, as I noted above, the presidential guard re-took the presidential palace and it was armed. But that's not the citizenry, that's armed troops. You should also notice from the very documentary you cite that the coup-plotters had already fled the building by the time those guards entered it, and they didn't have to shoot anyone.

I have no problem with well-armed militias. I am against most forms of gun control. But I'm not going to make shit up just to grind a political axe in favor of my position.

Fidel and Chávez on a live TV show - if your recount of it is accurate - have been known to embellish in live performance situations. They are not prophets who dish out a gospel or "line" that anybody should follow blindly, even those of us that respect them very much. (And, truth be told, they don't have much respect for those who never question them!)

There is a study coming out soon that investigated the results of every resistance campaign of the last 15 years or so in every country on earth. I'm going to try to find it. It found that armed insurrections succeeded just 26 percent of the time, while nonviolent civil resistance campaigns succeeded in 53 percent of cases.

You can bring up Tienanmen Square, which I'll see you a armed FARC and an armed ELN in Colombia and raise you an unarmed India independence right up through more recent successful unarmed uprisings in Serbia and Ukraine. Either can be effective. Either is legitimate in its proper context.

But in this changing world of total surveillance, higher technology, and greater access by the citizenry to other weapons (such as the Internet), the unarmed struggles are objectively kicking the ass of the armed ones.

It is, in the end, truly disempowering to tell people "you can't rise up if you don't have weapons." Most people living under authoritarian regimes will never get enough of them to have the firepower needed.

And there is also the historical record that armed revolutions more often lead to new authoritarian regimes than ones of civil resistance, which empower a people to know that it can prevent tyranny.

For me it's not a moral issue. I'm not a pacifist. It is about what is the most effective.

And in the case of the story of Venezuela in 2002, which I reported at the time, it is a matter of subscribing to the documented truth, rather than some spin offered up after-the-fact with no evidence to back it up.

More alternate press on the web

The need for a detailed timeline of the coup

I again want to ask Narcosphere contributors to construct a detailed timeline of the buildup to the Zelaya coup.

 

1.  Rights Action has recently stated that it has records demonstrating that the coup was in motion many months ago, certainly before the actions of Zelaya that are claimed to have precipitated the coup, but maybe even before he decided to have a survey of opinion on holding a referendum, which was November, 2008. 

 

2. The much- and justly-derided Wilkinson article actually provides an interesting variation on the theme of how the coup evolved. In the original Reuters narrative, shots were fired only after Zelaya was captive and demonstrators were starting to arrive. In Wilkinson's narrative, "army commanders" fired "warning shots." Both of these imply a well-controlled operation, with shots fired to preserve life. By contrast, Zelaya stated that "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 an plane and flew me to Costa Rica." This sounds more like a terrorist attack.

 

A detailed timeline, showing the contradictions in official accounts, could help better than anything to expose the rationalizations for what they are.

Timeline is a Job for Somebody Other than Me

Charles - I feel as if I've already offered the timeline, albeit not in chronological order, in all my posts here over the past two weeks. If there's a librarian that wants to index it, be my guest. But I'm not that kind of reporter. I'm too interested in what comes next and chronologies are simply a format that others can do much better than I.

http://www.phoenixwoman.wordpress.com

Al, you've done yeoman's work. I've read every article you've written (and articles from many other writers) and listened to a year's worth of TeleSur in two weeks.

 

There are parts of the timeline that can be constructed from what's available, especially with regard to events in the days after the coup. But other parts having to do with how the conflict built up rely on sources in Honduras. The Honduran newspapers are not reliable, nor are the emigres or their public relations people who have flooded the zone.

 

If you don't feel an interest in constructing a timeline, that's fair. Some journalists are beat reporters, some are analysts. But perhaps there is someone else in the Narcosphere who sees how important it would be in exposing what is really going on and would be willing to try. 

 

(to preserve the integrity of the Narcosphere, this is the name under which I write about politics and have done since 9/11) 

Clinton is not acting alone

Your comment that Clinton may roll if the diplomacy doesn't work out implies that others in the administration, if not Obama, opposes her strategy.  Or it at least implies that she is the moving force behind "placing all eggs" in the diplomatic basket.

What do you base this analysis on? I've seen no reports revealing a rift in the administration on this point.

@ Jim

Jim - The scenario I outlined about Secretary Clinton was preceded by two "ifs." One, if the Arias-mediated talks accomplish nothing, and, two, if that then encourages another military coup in another Latin American country.

That said, as a watchful student of the machinations of the Obama organization, it does seem to me that the State Department might be "freelancing" (that is, taking initiatives without having taken the time to fully vet them among all administration players) in the Honduras situation.

There is a barrage of press reports, in Spanish, for example, based on a report by the daily El Mercurio in Santiago de Chile, that Secretary Clinton has twice this week contacted Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to declare that the US opposes OAS chief Jose Miguel Insulza's reelection in 2010. If true, it would be a very ill-advised and premature action on the part of the US. One, because US opposition to Insulza's reelection probably helps it to happen more than hurts (the US, under Bush, opposed his first election, backing Mexican foreign minister Derbez instead). Two, to raise such a matter at this time, so many months before the vote next year, and while OAS unity is so important, can only be seen as the diplomatic equivalent of "concern trolling." Three, if true, it makes no sense to telegraph that to the president of Insulza's country provoking reaction and opposition (including what may have been a leak to El Mercurio).

The presumption that the president of the country where Inzulza himself has been touted as a possible presidential candidate, and enjoys high popularity there, would involve herself in a plot with Washington against one of her own is the kind of boneheaded maneuver that Clinton made a trademark during her Presidential and Senate campaigns. It deviates too widely from the Obama playbook of politics-as-chess to seriously consider that this move, if it happened, would have been how it would proceed even if it wanted that outcome.

Secondly, Clinton alone, among administration officials, has caused the confusion over calling a coup a coup. Every other administration official from Obama right down to Ambassador Llorens (a Bush holdover) has been very clear about defining events in Honduras with the word "coup." Clinton seems off the administration's page on this one.

Three, although she can't control her old lawyer Lanny Davis, and he himself may be "freelancing" on her, it's still eyebrow-raising that he's the guy the Honduran oligarchy now pays to do its bidding and lobbying in Washington. The lack of a distancing statement by Secretary Clinton or her staff is impolitic, and, again, follows a very different way of doing things than that of the overall administration, which is marked by its penchant for instantly disassociating itself from such freelancers.

Now, if the Arias mediation circus in Costa Rica actually has a pre-arranged outcome the restores Honduras' rightful president (doubtful since further talks have now been put off for a week), my first "if" won't become true and she'll be off the hook. To the contrary, even I will praise it as a master maneuver and place the lion's share of the credit on Secretary Clinton.

But Clinton was clearly the one that sold this strategy to the administration and that personally shepherded it through to realization. It's her talks, now. The "diplomatic" option has displaced other options in the area that I call "law enforcement," at least temporarily, and that is its downside. They are her talks now. She proposed them. She owns them. And she rises or falls based on whether they work or not.

 

Interesting tea leaf reading, but...

I'm sure you're tea-leaf reading skills are superior to mine, but I will make one point:

Emphasizing negotiations and diplomacy, at the outset at least, is surely an Obama trademark.  In fact, it would not surprise me if he was planning more forceful action and the negotiation route was merely viewed as a necessary step to gain legitimacy and support for the next step.

@ Jim

Jim - Fair enough. Like I wrote in the original post, above:

"The devil will be in the outcome, and so will the consequences."

I, for one, hope your scenario is correct. Still, I thought it important to let certain of those involved in the circus up above know that at least some of us have noticed these possible incongruities.

Thanks, JoAnne

Thanks, JoAnne, but I've seen those articles, and they're extremely brief and really do not include the thorough analysis of the constitution that would be necessary to convincingly rebut the claims about the coup's legality.

How much can any Sec of State be on his/her own?

Al:  They are her talks now. She proposed them. She owns them. And she rises or falls based on whether they work or not.

Then is it not in her interest to get rolling on increasing the economic and legal pressure on the coup backers, both publicly and behind the scenes?

Considering the repair work and turns being made wrt Russia, Iran, the Afghanistan/Pakistan quagmire, and Israel/Palestine, Central America is a sideshow to Obama and the pols in the WH.  While that does indeed create space for Clinton to be following her own (bad) instincts, it also means she's unlikely to be judged by the WH on the basis of how the Arias talks go.

I'm not a big fan in general of "if the czar only knew" analysis; the default assessment should be that a Secretary of State is carrying out administration policy, so that the President is as accountable for it as anyone else.  But I do agree that he can't be held accountable for tactical execution.  E.g., while Obama might be unhappy about the OAS vote to readmit Cuba, it's hard to imagine that he or anyone else encouraged Clinton to choose this singularly inappropriate moment to badmouth Insulza (if the reports are accurate).

@ Nell

Nell - This is pretty much the hour of any new administration (the summer after the inauguration) when functionaries test their elbow room and limits, as well as seek to establish their own "turf" within an administration.

We do know that when it comes to foreign policy, the Department of State has competitors in the administration: White House staff, Vice President Biden, special envoys (like Mitchell and Holbrooke, who himself wanted to be Secretary of State), muddy lines of division of labor with Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and CIA, etcetera.

And while Clinton has been so far a "good soldier" on administration policy, it's like the story of the frog and the scorpion: the frog helps the scorpion to cross the river on its back, saves its life, but the scorpion stings him anyway. Asked why, the scorpion says, "because it's in my nature." It remains to be seen if Secretary Clinton regresses into some old habits.

As Stephen Zunes writes:

There are serious questions as to whether Clinton can be trusted to make a clear stance for democracy, given her traditionally pro-interventionist position on Latin America. As a senator, she argued that the Bush administration should have taken a more aggressive stance against the rise of left-leaning governments in the hemisphere, arguing that Bush has neglected such developments "at our peril." In response to recent efforts by democratically elected Latin American governments to challenge the structural obstacles that have left much of their populations in poverty, she expressed alarm, saying, "We have witnessed the rollback of democratic development and economic openness in parts of Latin America." Though no doubt aware that U.S. policy toward leftist regimes in Latin American in previous decades had included military interventions, CIA-sponsored coups, military and financial support for opposition groups, and rigged national elections, she argued that "We must return to a policy of vigorous engagement."

That's the old Clinton. This crisis is, as I keep repeating, a test of the true character of everyone involved, including many spectators in the media and blogosphere. It is precisely in crisis that people's true colors are revealed. That's my worry, fed by the incongruities I've already mentioned.

 

More tea leaves

You make a good point about the stage that the administration is at, and there's no question about Clinton's background and inclinations: she's a corporate "free"-trader and interventionist all the way; Plan Colombia was Pres. Clinton's project, well underway before Bush came in.

But Obama's a free-trader himself; Austan Goolsbee did reassure the Canadians the campaign wouldn't really seek renegotiation of NAFTA, and now the admin is resisting those who thought Obama had promised renegotiation.

This uncharacteristically stenographic piece by Warren Strobel of McClatchy is interesting for tea leaf readers: the 'senior diplomat' is almost certainly Jeffrey Davidow (time to revive your 1999 skewering in the Phoenix!), and the current State source 'not at liberty to speak' is either Shannon or Restrepo.

The denigration of the Zelaya return as a "farce" is classic elite foreign policy p.o.v.  What strikes me most about the piece is the way it reinforces the sinking sensation  I had on July 2-3: 

OAS "failure" is being used by Clinton, Davidow, and Shannon as a dodge to shove the organization aside for the U.S.-arranged endless stall of the Arias talks, when a significant contribution to the OAS' "failure" was the U.S. failure to signal its commitment to the seriousness of the OAS' 72-hour deadline ending the morning of July 4.  The administration could have assertively supported Zelaya's effort to return, pushed back at the threats made by Cardinal Rodriguez, and made it clear they'd cut off aid and withdraw Amb. Llorens on Saturday morning if the OAS deadline passed.  That wouldn't have been big-footing, that would have been using our power in normal, legal, and multilateral way to strengthen the OAS.

Davidow's conversation with Strobel seems to show that another path had been chosen already by July 2: let the OAS try and fail, then step in with both big feet.

Robert Carmona brother of Pedro reported active in Honduras coup

Berta Cáceres of the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) states that the brother of Venezuela's dictator-for-a-day in 2002 Pedro Carmona is active among the golpistas in Honduras.

http://hondurasresists.blogspot.com/2009/07/indigenous-leader-berta-cace...

 

@ Nell

Nell - Actually, Davidow, who as you know (but for the benefit of all here) was political officer in the US Embassy in Santiago de Chile during the 1973 US-backed coup there, bared his fangs in a Washington Post "analysis" today by the professional simulator Mary Beth Sheridan. There, Davidow said:

"The threats against democracy in Latin America, and I don't in any way minimize what's happened in Honduras . . . are not those coming from military coups, but rather from governments which are ignoring checks and balances, overriding other elements of government," said Jeffrey Davidow, a retired U.S. ambassador who served as President Obama's special adviser for the recent Summit of the Americas.

Therefore, I think we can be fairly certain that Davidow is not the unnamed "Latin American Senior Diplomat" in the McClatchey story who is acknowledging that a coup is a coup and there's nothing untoward if on this matter the US finds its position on the same side as that of Venezuela's. Smells more like a Castaneda or Derbez type to me.

I would also translate Davidow's statement in the Post as meaning: "I failed my audition at the Summit of the Americas and have been passed over for a more meaningful post."

Why I hate anonymous sourcing

Hm. Hope you're right about Davidow no longer having a role in the administration.  The 'senior diplomat' in the Strobel story sounds like someone in a policy-level position, explaining the admin's thinking.  If my impression is correct, it's disturbing for the confirmation that they'd decided to let the OAS fail and then step in.

(The Mary Beth Sheridan piece is from a week ago, btw.)

Coup is illegal; no constitutional scholarship required

@Texan: 

You don't need a long study of the Honduran constitution to rebut the argument that the coup is legal.

You only need to hold onto this most basic point:

Even if the Supreme Court decision was correct, the most that could have been done and still be legal would be for them to issue an arrest order that should have been executed by the police, after 6 am and before 6 pm, bringing Pres. Zelaya before a judicial representative to charge him with a crime.  There is no legal basis for denying Manuel Zelaya the due process available to any other Honduran citizen charged with a crime.

The top military lawyer, Herberth Bayardo Inestroza, acknowledged publicly on June 29 that removing Zelaya from the country was illegal.  Though he didn't acknowledge it, it was also illegal to have masked soldiers carry out a Court warrant, for them to shoot their way into the president's residence, and for them to arrive before 6 am.

If the Court had also ruled that Zelaya was, because of the nature of the crime with which he was charged, automatically removed from office, then the Vice President should have assumed office.  The presentation of an obviously fake "resignation letter" dated three days before the coup did not qualify Micheletti to succeed Zelaya.

That the Supreme Court has ignored all these illegalities, and accepted the coup government as legitimate, is a strong indication that their decision to issue an order for Zelaya's arrest was not rendered in good faith and is not legally sound.  For further reading on that point, tangential as it is to the illegality of the coup and the illegitimacy of Micheletti's "government", try here.

Thanks, Nell, but I think

Thanks, Nell, but I think more *is* required. At the very minimum, a point-by-point refutation of the arguments of the defenders of the coup's legality would be very helpful.

For one thing, there's the obvious argument that well, the Supreme Court gets to decide what's legal and what's not. In the US, when there are questions about the constitutionality of something, the Court is where you look. There's no higher authority to decide their actions weren't "legally sound." If this is wrong, under what circumstances can you say a Supreme Court is acting illegally or fomenting a coup?

As another example, you say the vice-president should have come into power. But does it say that in the Constitution? Maybe it does, but where?

Third, I agree that it seems illegal to exile him, but there are rumor that they gave him the choice whether to stand trial or leave, and he chose to leave -- can we demonstrate this is an unfounded rumor? (Not that this would necessarily affect the legality...)

I'm not asking for a lengthy law review article; just a simple point-by-point refutation, and explanation for why it was illegal. Anyone with expertise in the country's constitution should be able to do this, and I think it would help in convincing a lot of people.

Coup was known by everyone but Zelaya?

Not a friend to warn Zelaya?

In total secrecy the Honduran Congress, Supreme Court and generals all proposed, argued and debated until they reached perfect agreement on a coup, and then before Zelaya could get out of bed there were a dozen hooded solders pointing guns at his head  --  Unbelievable.  And most except it, without even a word of debate about it  --  truly Unbelievable.

 

For unless something changes the dynamics, Zelaya will agree to end all reform, and no president in Central America will again dare offend deadly Empire USA.  Comes now light to force such darkness to give way.

 

Before Zelaya ran for president, the owners of Chiquita Banana and some other rich corporations in Honduras happened to be playing a round of golf, when one bemused, “If we do nothing to stop Chavez and his Bolivarian revolution, this green were standing on will be turned into a vegetable garden for the homeless.  Come, let us sucker Chavez into fighting a coup he cannot defeat, a coup we orchestrate in a way that Chavez looks weak and helpless, and a coup that sends a cold chill down the spine of every president in Central and South America.”

 

So President Zelaya, his family being rich nobility for many generations, increased minimum wage 60% from about $1 to $1.60 an hour, and created welfare programs that could easily be reversed.  Then as all politicians in Honduras are paid actors running a make believe government, all were coached on what they must say and do, and Zelaya shows up in pajamas at a foreign air port yelling “Coup!... Coup!... Coup!”

 

Take for example what Zelaya said when asked by Al Jazeera TV why he did not fly to the U.S. Air Force base in Honduras, “It is not a U.S. base, and our military would be on the runway.”  Not true, as we have a lease that prevents anyone but U.S. troops from entering the heavy guarded base.  As our supersonic jets and guided missiles are top secret, and the knowledge of whether we have nuclear warheads on the base is super top secret.  And as Zelaya did not fly to the base and attempt to land, and as the U.S. did not propose this as a first step to ending the coup, surely we have something most deceitful and suspicious going down.  

 

And so, watch carefully how our hero Chavez handles the way Zelaya and the U.S. are doing nothing but talk about a compromise between dictatorship and democracy, how they can come up with a somewhat dictatorial democracy. 

Read the links, Texan.

@Texan:

It's clear you haven't read the interview with Bayardo to which I linked, nor do you honestly want to rebut the pro-coup assertions of a "democratic transition", or you wouldn't waste time passing on garbage like the "rumor" that Zelaya was offered the choice of standing trial or leaving. 

Bayardo says clearly that the military took the decision to expel him forcibly.  He doesn't pretend that Zelaya was offered any choice.  Neither does Gen. Vasquez, who says that the military and Supreme Court made the decision to arrest Zelaya jointly, but won't say who gave the order to remove him from the country.

Sure, the Supreme Court is the final authority on what's legal and what's not.  Suppose one Thursday our Supreme Court were to rule that a sitting president should be arrested -- or, more accurately, given the nature of our Supreme Court, issue a ruling to uphold or strike down a lower court's ruling that has that effect. It would be illegal, and a coup, if a few days later a group of Navy Seals shot their way into the White House at five in the morning, put the president on a helicopter, flew him/her to Ottawa, and left him/her at the airport. 

Then imagine that the House of Representatives were convened on Sunday, without some forty of its members, and the Speaker of the House, after presenting an obviously fake "resignation letter", was voted in as President.

Would you feel you needed a point-by-point documentation of the reasoning behind the Supreme Court's decision in order to judge whether what had just taken place was a coup? 

If the commander of the Navy Seals offered as justification the Supreme Court ruling, and wouldn't say who gave the order to fly the president out of the country, no one (except apparently you) would be pretending that there was some kind of legal question about their actions.

The highly political Honduran Supreme Court is not a close analog to the U.S. Supreme Court.  But even so, we have an example in our recent history where the legal foundation of a USSC decision is regarded as highly questionable: the ruling in Bush v. Gore, whose bad faith and partisan intent was evident when the majority opinion asserted that it should not be used as precedent.

Last response to constitutional questions

Texan: you say the vice-president should have come into power. But does it say that in the Constitution? Maybe it does, but where?

Too lazy to look it up yourself? The Honduran Constitution is here.

Not for you, but for others who're being told lies:

ARTICULO 242.- En las ausencias temporales del Presidente de la República lo sustituirá en sus funciones el Vicepresidente. Si la falta del Presidente fuera absoluta, el Vicepresidente ejercerá la titularidad del Poder Ejecutivo por el tiempo que le falte para terminar el período constitucional. Pero si también faltare de modo absoluto el Vicepresidente de la República, el Poder Ejecutivo será ejercido por el Presidente del Congreso Nacional y, a falta de éste, por el Presidente de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, por el tiempo que faltare para terminar el período constitucional.

The coup-makers didn't fake up a "resignation letter" for VP Aristides Mejia, and as far as I know he was in Honduras when  Zelaya was forced onto the plane. (He had been in New York speaking at a UN economics conference June 24-26.) So he should have succeeded Zelaya.

 

"Concern trolling"

I find some of the commenters here are overly concerned about things that don't matter. Others want to direct the work of journalists covering the issues. I want to applaud Al and the other narco newsistas for focusing correctly on the main issues.

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About Al Giordano

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Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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