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  November 4, 2009

Nothing resolved in Honduras

Widely-celebrated, US-brokered agreement looks to have strengthened coup instead of reversing it
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Bertha Oliva is the Founder and Coordinator of the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras. COFADEH, by its Spanish initials, is a non-governmental organization dedicated to the fight against impunity and memory of the victims of forced disappearances. Their goof friend was killed during the kidnapping as well. Oliva founded the organization after her husband, Prof. Tomás Nativí, was kidnapped and disappeared in 1982. Today COFADEH is looked to as an authority an all issues relating to human rights and public security. Oliva received the Human Rights Award from Honduras' National Commission of Human Rights, as well as being nominated as one of the 1000 Peace Women for the Nobel Prize in 2005. COFADEH is recognized as having played a major role in the dissolution of Honduras' notorious Department of National Investigations, the repeal of compulsory military service, and the liberation of the country's last political prisoners in 1992.

Note: At 08:39 the subtitle quotes Shannon as saying "Honduran democracy is NOT in the hands of Hondurans. It should read is NOW in the hands of Hondurans.


JESSE FREESTON, PRODUCER, TRNN: On Friday, October 30, the world woke up to headlines announcing that the crisis in Honduras was over: the military coup that had exiled a president and brought four months of massive repression against a pro-democracy movement had been resolved. Days later, however, the agreement appears more like an attempt to legitimize the coup than to reverse it. The original word of a breakthrough was supported at that time by statements from all parties involved. The coup president, Roberto Micheletti, praised the agreement.

ROBERTO MICHELETTI, ACTING PRESIDENT, HONDURAS (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): We're pleased to announce that a few minutes ago I authorized my negotiation team to sign an agreement that marks the beginning of the end of the political situation in the country.

FREESTON: Meanwhile, ousted president Manuel Zelaya shared his approval.

MANUEL ZELAYA, OUSTED PRESIDENT, HONDURAS (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): A plan has been developed, and I think that my restoration is imminent. It won't happen in two days, but it will over the next few days.

FREESTON: The United States secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, announced from Pakistan that there had been, quote, a "breakthrough" in Honduras. And the National Coalition Against the Coup, after 125 straight days in the streets, released a statement praising Zelaya's restitution and claiming it as a victory of the popular movement.

CELEBRATING MAN: Long live President Manuel Zelaya!

FREESTON: That said, their spokesperson, Dr. Luther Castillo, appeared on Telemundo to clarify that they viewed this as only one victory toward a larger goal.

DR. LUTHER HARRY CASTILLO, SPOKESPERSON, NANTIONAL ANTI-COUP COALITION (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): As the National Coalition Against the Coup it's worth clarifying that we've begun a very clear process, an unstoppable march toward the refounding of our country. We are struck at this moment by the memory of the lives of our companions that have been lost during this process, murdered by the soldiers, during this march toward the refounding of the country. Of course, the return of constitutional order is one of our goals, but our movement goes further than the restitution of Zelaya, further than the constitutional assembly, which represent the two clear demands that we have put forward at this time.

FREESTON: Since the announcement, the reality of the situation and the details of the agreement have caused the celebrations to give way to grave concerns. The Real News spoke to Bertha Oliva, founder and director of COFADEH, a leading human-rights monitor in Honduras.

BERTHA OLIVA, HONDURAN HUMAN RIGHTS MONITOR (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): It's urgent that the Honduran community, but above all the international community, understand that what the coup regime is doing, through their corporate media that they have used for disinformation, is to manipulate and misinform the international population. The situation in Honduras is worse than ever. It's worse because now the dictatorship is positioned. Positioning themselves means they have absolute control over everything.

FREESTON: The central points of the accord are as follows. The National Congress will be given the right to vote on whether or not Zelaya is to be returned to the presidency or not. A government of national unity and reconciliation is to be formed from members of Zelaya's cabinet and that of the coup government. There will be no amnesty for crimes committed both before and during the coup, and Zelaya is to renounce his calls for a national constitutional assembly. Within hours of the accord's signing, it became clear that the document meant different things to different parties. The accord establishes Thursday, November 5, as the deadline for the formation of the unity government. While many interpreted this as the deadline for Congress to decide Zelaya's fate, the coup government, the president of the Congress, and US officials determined that a unity government can be formed without a president, or that the coup leader, Micheletti, could remain in power. And as Thursday arrived, the Congress, which is technically on recess until the scheduled elections of November 29, had yet to schedule an emergency meeting—the same kind of meeting that was convened within hours on June 29 in order to vote Zelaya out of office. Further delaying the decision, the congressional leadership has asked for legal opinions from the Supreme Court, the attorney general, and the human rights ombudsman. This comes as a shock to many who understood the accord to represent Zelaya's return to power. This group includes former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, who was selected, together with US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, as the international witnesses to verify the accord's implementation.

RICARDO LAGOS, FORMER PRESIDENT OF CHILE: —in order to have a government of national unity and, at the same time, as the agreement say, to restore the democratic institutions to the state where they were in June 28. This is the time when President Zelaya was overthrown. Therefore I think that what we are trying to implement is an agreement that means that President Zelaya has to be returned to power.

FREESTON: But in an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, the spokesperson for the Supreme Court said that Zelaya would most likely not be reinstated, and that even if he was, he would be arrested for treason as soon as he stepped foot outside of the Brazilian embassy, adding that by rejecting amnesty in the accord, Zelaya's representatives had, quote, "condemned him to to the gallows." Many are confused by the strategy of Zelaya to put the country's fate in the hands of the same Congress that originally ratified the coup. Some have speculated about the existence of a secret deal with members of Congress and/or Washington, but Zelaya's ambassador to DC said the move was designed to begin the process of reconciliation.

EDUARDO ENRIQUE REINA, HONDURAN AMBASSADOR TO THE US (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): This will be an opportunity unlike any in history. A country gets to backtrack. We're giving that chance to the Honduran Congress. They made a mistake and, yes, covered up their crimes. They presented a forged resignation letter from President Zelaya. We believe that elections without Zelaya as president would break the constitutional line of succession in the Honduran democracy; therefore it wouldn't be acceptable to the global community, nor Zelaya.

FREESTON: According to Oliva, the focus on seeing Zelaya returned to the presidency in order to legitimize the election is a sideshow from the real issue at hand.

OLIVA: The fundamental flaw with the agreement is that it contains nothing that will strengthen and improve the situation in the country. The great absence is the violation of human rights. That began the very moment of June 28 when they violated a fundamental right: the right to have rule of law in one's country. And deporting the president of the republic and his foreign minister, Patricia Rodas, it should have been addressed then. But now we add the deaths, the torture, the persecution, the threats that the Honduran people are facing. This hasn't been addressed. I believe that the accord was destined to come out bad. As a general rule, you can't sit down and negotiate under imposition and repression. This was what happened before, during, and after the agreement. The Honduran people were being repressed at the exact moment that they were seated at the negotiation table working out this agreement. From there, bad things come, they just keep imposing themselves.

FREESTON: The accord was brokered by the United States. And while the official US position has always been that Zelaya is the legitimate president of Honduras, the State Department's top official for Latin America, Assistant Secretary Tom Shannon, while appearing on CNN Español on Wednesday, pledged US support for the upcoming elections regardless of whether or not Zelaya is returned to power beforehand.


Courtesy: CNN Español

REPORTER (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): So, for the US, the case is that the crisis is all but over. The elections will be recognized on the 29th, and the Hondurans will resolve the question of Zelaya, whatever the result may be.


REPORTER: So the US is done, and whatever happens happens, and you will recognize whatever happens on the 29th.

SHANNON: Yes, exactly.


REINA: We understand that Hondurans need to resolve Honduran problems. But when a dictatorial regime assumes power by force, the only guarantee that the people can have when their rights are being violated is the support of the international community, which is why the accord has a verification commission.

FREESTON: Many are interpreting this as confirmation of previous suspicions that the US government has been willing to accept the coup all along and that the US has been doing its part to help the coup regime delay until the November elections, where its rule could be legitimized. The accord calls on all parties to support the November 29 elections, and it gives control of the military over to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the same tribunal whose representatives were in Washington, DC, just three weeks ago lobbying the US to recognize the elections regardless of the human-rights situation on the ground of Honduras. Their press release argued that, quote, "... it is critical that these elections remain separate and independent from the current political fray." (October 14, 2009) Oliva believes that with or without Zelaya, the elections are not a solution.

OLIVA: The elections will not solve the problem. On the contrary, it's the coming elections that will make things worse if they take place. What makes them think that the Honduran people are going to gather to vote when those who are guarding the ballots are the same soldiers that overthrew and expelled President Zelaya and the same soldiers and police that have repressed the Honduran people throughout this dictatorship? Who's going to trust them?

FREESTON: It appears that for those opposing the coup in Honduras, this agreement has only made the situation worse. Their elected president is still trapped inside the Brazilian embassy, surrounded by the police and military. Their resistance continues to face massive repression while being informed that both the exiled and de facto presidents have agreed that they can't vote on whether or not to rewrite their own constitution. And now the international community is debating whether or not to recognize elections scheduled to take place in roughly three weeks, all under a regime that has yet to recognize the movement's right to peaceful assembly.


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