Congresswoman Silvia Ayala of the anti-coup Unificación Democrática (UD) Party had just returned from Mexico and was en route to the Dominican Republic, part of a trajectory aimed at strengthening international condemnation of the June 28 coup d’etat against President Mel Zelaya. She made time to speak with me at a cafeteria in the northwestern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula and arrived with her husband and two children, who alternately contributed anecdotes to the discussion, answered Ayala’s cell phone, and—in the case of her young son—drew pictures in a notebook.
A lawyer herself, Ayala announced that about 200 Honduran attorneys had actively joined the coup resistance despite the general alliance between Honduran law school faculties and the political right. The Spanish description of the alliance exploits the homophonic similarity between derecho—law—and derecha, right, with additional Spanish homophony made possible by the arrival that day of Judge Baltasar Garzón of Spain to investigate coup regime violations of derechos humanos, human rights.
Such derechos had been one focus of Ayala’s recent appearance at the Foro de Sao Paulo in Mexico City, attended by over 500 mainly Latin American delegates. At the cafeteria in San Pedro Sula, Ayala listed what she considered to be some of the primary violations currently occurring in Honduras, including instances of assassination and torture and a general persecution of Nicaraguan nationals innocently going about their business. As for curtailment of other liberties, Ayala informed me that she had learned from a hotel television set in June that Roberto Micheletti had been unanimously voted in as coup President, a unanimity that was apparently easier to maintain when certain members of Congress were not permitted to vote and were instead reduced to watching congressional proceedings on television.
A different version of events is provided by “La Gringa’s Blogicito,” a title that only becomes more endearing with the blog’s stated premise: “Tropical gardening and living in La Ceiba, Honduras. Neither is easy for this expatriate American woman.” According to La Gringa, whose posts alternate between themes like “Zelayistas attack a 71-year-old man” and “It’s back! Rainy season,” Congress members blocked from attending Congress blocked themselves. As for Ayala’s claim that she was invited to Mexico by the Vice-president of the Mexican Senate, La Gringa reveals the real reason for her departure from Honduras in an August 20 blog post entitled “Silvia Ayala left in shame.”
The post begins: “After being caught in her ridiculous lies yesterday, UD Congresswoman Silvia Avayla fled to Mexico… denouncing that human rights violations and media pressure have made her leave.” Proof of her flight is offered in a link to an August 20 La Tribuna article that manages to spell Ayala’s name correctly but does not mention that she is fleeing her own lies in addition to human rights violations and media pressure; proof of the lies is meanwhile provided in a link to La Gringa’s blog post of five o’clock that morning concerning the visit to Honduras of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, CIDH in its Spanish acronym.
In the post, La Gringa laments the idea that the CIDH is refusing to talk to anyone in Honduras who is not in the coup resistance. Neglected segments of society include parents concerned that their children are being threatened and brainwashed by schoolteachers, people who are denied government services when service providers choose to block roads instead of provide, fast food employees fearful of “being subjected to falling sheets of glass (from rioters breaking windows),” and 123 congressmen who are suddenly in the same boat as the poor of Honduras:
While the commission refuses to talk to 123 congressmen*, they will talk to the 12 congressmen who have refused to attend congressional sessions, but still come to collect their generous paychecks, while the poor in this country continue to go hungry.”
La Gringa concludes that the plight of all of these people will continue to be ignored unless they “start throwing rocks and starting fires and then resist arrest.” Just when tropical gardening and living in La Ceiba, Honduras is starting to seem really unmanageable, however, we find that the asterisk next to the neglected congressmen corresponds to a “bright point… which gives hope.” The bright point occurs in an August 19 La Tribuna article entitled “‘Desenmascaran’ a los diputados en resistencia” regarding the unmasking of Congress members belonging to the resistance, who should presumably be easy to identify if they are not showing up for work.
It turns out that what is being exposed is merely the punctuality with which the Congress members in question have retrieved their paychecks. Congressional President José Alfredo Saavedra claims to have delivered proof of this to the CIDH in a meeting at the Congress building, which suggests that the 123 neglected congressmen have improved their standing over the poor of Honduras when it comes to talking to human rights commissions. Saavedra refrains from revealing the identities of the missing Congress members “so as not to enter into confrontations,” although La Tribuna provides 12 possible candidates; La Gringa meanwhile refuses to reveal her own identity but succeeds in unmasking partisans of the UD in her August 20 blog post, in which a photograph of Ayala is labeled “Congresswoman Silvia Ayala, UD (FARC) party.”
Sipping her coffee in the cafeteria, Ayala explained that terrorist ties were often invoked whenever there was a threat of political reform in favor of the people, and denied the interchangeability of acronyms between her own party and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Such accusations were currently managed by coup President Micheletti, whose insistence that there was proof of ties enabled the Honduran media to report them as fact; La Gringa nonetheless remains skeptical of the media’s noble intentions:
Ask yourself this: what would happen if your senator made a human rights accusation against the government of Barack Obama saying that he or she was forcefully denied entry to the congress, was assaulted, and was not paid his salary…. and later it was found to be totally false? Did you think that the media would be interested? Hah! Talk about media persecution!”
La Gringa continues to compensate for the perceived lack of media attention to congressional paychecks but fails to explain why there is a need for such paychecks given the sudden wealth of Colombian guerrilla outfits, reiterating that “[p]ersonally, as poor as Honduras is, as much need as there is in this country, I don’t think any government employee who doesn’t go to work should get paid.”
Activities that do require some sort of compensation, on the other hand, appear to include photographing plant leaves in one’s lavish garden in the coastal La Ceiba area and putting them on the internet along with the notice “Will blog for presents” and an Amazon wish list that includes a Calphalon nonstick frying pan and an 18-ounce coffee mug lid. La Gringa warns in the FAQ section of her blog, however, that readers’ requests for information about La Ceiba will be dealt with as follows: “If I know something about it or can easily find out (I’m basically lazy, you know), I’ll be happy to write about it. Don’t try to give me a job though, because I’m not going to do it. ;-)”. Not included in the FAQ section thus far is an answer to why US expats are acquiring property in a village near La Ceiba entitled Sambo Creek.
Regarding jobs that entail marching cross-country, blocking major thoroughfares, and being sprayed with tear gas, Ayala’s husband Javier Rivera confirmed his wife’s scheme to be paid for doing nothing. During the cafeteria interview, Rivera laughingly told the story of how, several years earlier, the couple’s daughter Maggie, now 17, had phoned Ayala only to be told that she was busy at the moment. Maggie subsequently discovered thanks to television that Ayala was actually in jail following a roadblock by los maestros, further proof of how support for Honduran teachers was tantamount to child neglect—a connection Maggie had apparently failed to grasp based on her declaration that eighty percent of anti-coup marchers were young people who considered themselves not the future but rather part of the present.
The role of TV in diffusing pertinent information is addressed when La Gringa momentarily forgets the inherent Honduran media bias and reveals in her August 23 blog post that, in addition to photographing flowers, she has also devoted a substantial amount of time to photographing her television set. The photographic series features the results of text message polls conducted by Channel 10 News since the coup, in which the Honduran populace is asked such things as whether it was good that the government rejected Zelaya’s restitution and whether it was the duty of the police to remove protesters blocking the road. The answers to both of these issues were coincidentally 94 percent positive, with the remaining 6 percent presumably due to the fact that Channel 10 is unable to control how many Honduran cell phones are in the hands of the FARC.
As for FARC technology in the hands of other people, Ayala brought up the computers that were allegedly captured during Colombia’s 2008 incursion into Ecuador and were periodically reported to contain evidence of FARC ties to whoever in the region currently required discrediting. The United States had provided intelligence coordinates for the attack; La Gringa meanwhile persists in providing orientation for other Latin American nations:
Ayala accused the [Honduran] media of ‘inciting hate against the principal actors [of the resistance].’ Whoa there! You can’t have it both ways. Either media outlets that promote hate − of which we have at least two in Honduras, both generously funded by Mel Zelaya’s government − should be controlled, or we should have freedom of the media.”
La Gringa’s logic in this case appears to be that, as long as there are two anti-coup Honduran media outlets— both of which were the victims of an acid attack on their broadcast transmitters—Ayala should not be able to complain about harassment by the rest of the outlets. Other attempts by Ayala to “have it both ways” might be rectified by a Channel 10 text message poll asking whether Silvia Ayala had picked up her paycheck; having it both ways as an expatriate might meanwhile consist of inhabiting a walled-in villa in a Honduran coastal town.
La Gringa detects no evidence of the fact that her own position on the media might entail more than one way, and writes on the evening of August 20: “Yes, I believe that it is true in most countries − not Venezuela, of course, but most countries − that when a politician is caught in several big, fat lies, the media goes nuts over it, don’t they?” Similarities between the Venezuelan and Honduran media had not been an issue that morning, however, when La Gringa reported congressmen’s claims about being denied entry to Congress, where “the doors to the congressional floor are open to the point that the media transmits ‘live and in color’. If there had been any sort of altercation or assault, as those 12 congressmen falsely claimed, it would have surely been covered by the media.”
Venezuelan relevance surfaced once again in a Channel 10 interview on August 26, in which the interviewee declared that Hugo Chávez was ultimately responsible for US visa suspensions for Honduras. The subject of the evening’s text message poll was nonetheless not whether Chávez was now in charge of the US government but rather whether Hondurans who boycotted elections should be considered traitors, with the traditional division of positive and negative responses. At the cafeteria in San Pedro Sula, Ayala addressed the difficulties surrounding the upcoming elections in that it was not possible to reject illegitimate elections and not leave the entire congress to the golpistas.
La Gringa’s prophecy that Ayala can’t have it both ways gained further significance when the Congresswoman speculated that the unprecedented appearance of an independent candidate on the electoral list was a means of dividing the resistance. Coup President Micheletti might also benefit from lessons in the impossibility of having it both ways, which might put an end to the practice of juxtaposing the statement that he would like Zelaya to return with the statement that Zelaya’s return is not an option.
La Gringa ends her August 20 blog post on Ayala by stressing the value of repetition in creating facts:
Please keep this one small example in mind when you read about human rights violations in Honduras.
Double standard. Double standard. Double standard. Double standard.
Double standard. Double standard. Double standard. Double standard.
Double standard. Double standard. Double standard. Double standard.”
Another small example occurs in La Gringa’s August 24 post entitled “Who writes this stuff?”, in which she questions the identity of “the people who write these articles about Honduras under the guise of the Associated Press” based on an apparent misinterpretation in one such article of details of the San José Accord. The possibility that the AP simply wants a cute nickname does not occur to La Gringa, despite the fact that the response appearing in the FAQ section of her blog as to why she does not use her real name describes how “[w]hen I would meet someone when I was a little girl, people would always say, ‘Oh, that’s my grandmother’s name!’ No little girl wants to hear that.”
Not addressed in “La Gringa’s Blogicito” is how Honduran children presumably don’t want to hear that their mother has just been gang-raped by policemen and their batons, as this is less of a human rights concern than Congress members who have allegedly picked up their paychecks.
First published in Narco News, 31 August 2009