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Monthly Archives: September 2009

LIVE FROM HONDURAS: Library of Congress report determines Honduran coup was constitutional despite having unconstitutional aspects; Golpistas oppose rewriting Honduran Constitution but don’t understand the current one either

The most prevalent argument in favor of the June 28 coup that ousted Honduran President Mel Zelaya is that Zelaya intended to accumulate more than the single presidential term currently permitted him by the Honduran Constitution. This argument fails to take into account the question that was to be posed in the nonbinding public opinion survey slated to take place on the day Zelaya was removed to Costa Rica, which was not “Do you want the president to remain in power forever?” but rather “Are you in favor of installing a fourth ballot box at the general elections [in November] where the public can vote on whether or not a National Constituent Assembly should be convened to rewrite the Constitution?” The Honduran Constitution consists of 375 articles, most of which do not concern presidential reelection – suggesting that Hondurans wishing to rewrite the document might have complaints other than their inability to have the same leader for more than 4 years.

Article 374, which states that Constitutional articles concerning presidential limits cannot be amended, has been incessantly invoked to prove Zelaya’s culpability in the matter of the intended survey. Not invoked are articles seemingly more applicable to the situation, such as Article 45, which declares as punishable any act impeding or limiting civil participation in the political life of Honduras and which might thus prove useful in an analysis of the survey’s thwarting; additional analysis might be offered to Article 60, which claims there are no clases privilegiadas in Honduras. Article 63 stating that “the declarations, rights, and guarantees listed in this Constitution will not be understood as a denial of other declarations, rights, and guarantees that are not specified but arise from the ideals of independence, representative democracy, and the dignity of man” might meanwhile be applied to prospects for a National Constituent Assembly, as the rewriting of the Constitution is not addressed in any declarations, rights, or guarantees but appears to coincide with the required ideals. As for the ideals of coup president Roberto Micheletti, we are left with the question of why he sought to suspend Article 374 in 1985 in order to prolong the presidency of Roberto Suazo Córdoba.

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LIVE FROM HONDURAS: Coup supporters march in Tegucigalpa; consulate of Kingdom of Jordan steals the show

As they occasionally do in order to show that members of the Honduran anti-coup resistance are not the only ones that can walk, coup supporters marched this morning in Tegucigalpa, clad mainly in white shirts or Honduran soccer jerseys. Their chants ranged from the very banal, such as “Elecciones, elecciones, elecciones” and “Honduras, Honduras, Honduras”, to the less banal, such as “Lula, llevate esa mula”, an appeal to the president of Brazil to transfer “that jackass” – i.e. Honduran President Mel Zelaya – from the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa to Brazil proper.

According to a middle-aged marcher named Jorge Antonio in a Honduran flag hat that tied under his chin, Brazil’s adoption of Zelaya was one of two ways to rectify the current crisis; the other was for Brazil to simply hand him over to the coup government of Roberto Micheletti. He expressed his doubt at the latter option, as Lula was rapidly becoming a clone of Hugo Chávez, and – dragging me over to a parked pickup truck on the side of the road – encouraged me to stand in the back such that I might witness the extent of the golpista multitudes, which nonetheless did not appear to consist of 85 percent of the population as Jorge Antonio claimed. (March organizers claimed 60,000 marchers; local media counted the size at 10,000). He sighed when I hesitated to occupy a vehicle whose owner had not been identified and yanked me up, whereupon I asked if he believed in the concept of communal property; laughing: “No, no!”, he drew my attention to the current chant suggesting that people who did harbor such notions could go to Caracas.

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LIVE FROM HONDURAS: Channel 10 owner breaks news of men hugging men on floor of Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa

Rodrigo Wong Arevola, CEO of Channel 10.

Rodrigo Wong Arevalo, CEO of Channel 10.

The September 22 edition of the Honduran evening news program Abriendo Brecha kept a running tally of the day’s mobile phone survey, trademark of Channel 10. The question was whether viewers thought the coup government of Roberto Micheletti had done well not to storm the Brazilian embassy currently housing reappeared Honduran President Mel Zelaya, and the responses hovered between 93 and 94 percent positive. According to newscaster and Channel 10 owner Rodrigo Wong Arevalo, the unconvinced 6 or 7 percent emphasized the need for a quick resolution to the political crisis, which could be brought about in one of three ways: through Zelaya’s abandonment of Honduran territory, Zelaya’s renunciation of claims to the presidency, or Zelaya’s appearance before a tribunal.

At the start of the program Wong had outlined the evening’s upcoming highlights, such as a photo of the interior of the Brazilian embassy – which he promised would demonstrate that despite the lack of bedrooms Zelaya was extremely comfortable – and proof of Brazilian distress that Zelaya was in their embassy. The latter highlight consisted of testimony by a single official in Brazil; the former consisted of a photograph of Zelaya sleeping fully clothed with his feet across a chair and his cowboy hat over his face. Wong specified that the hat was positioned so as to keep out the sunrays but did not specify whether Zelaya’s pajamas had been left in Costa Rica; lest the accommodations did not appear overly luxurious, Wong reminded the audience that at least the embassy had electricity, a statement that often depended on the embassy’s generator when the military cut power to the building. The photo was meanwhile followed by a letter from a viewer asking whether incitement by other media outlets – which had raised the possibility that the Honduran armed forces would enter the Brazilian embassy – really qualified as journalism.

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LIVE FROM HONDURAS: Radio Globo and Channel 36 announce return of President Zelaya; Coup president Micheletti eventually agrees they are right

Radio Globo journalist Eduardo Maldonado.

Radio Globo journalist Eduardo Maldonado.

LIVE FROM HONDURAS: Radio Globo and Channel 36 announce return of President Zelaya; Coup president Micheletti eventually agrees they are right

In the broadcasting room at Radio Globo yesterday morning, journalists Gustavo Blanco, Eduardo Maldonado, and Rony Martínez took turns announcing into their microphones the sudden arrival of Honduran President Mel Zelaya to Tegucigalpa 86 days after the military coup that ousted him. While announcing, the three simultaneously extracted information from the internet, television, and their respective cell phones and maintained communications with a dozen other station employees via hand gestures.

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Virginia Muslims prefer coziness of synagogue, “shalom” greeting

Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation facilities.

Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation facilities.

Lest Haaretz readers be concerned by headlines such as “Israel, Palestinian Authority summit still a long way off,” the Israeli daily recently ran an AP article entitled “Virginia synagogue doubles as mosque for Ramadan,” which begins:

On Friday afternoons, the people coming to pray at this building take off their shoes, unfurl rugs to kneel on and pray in Arabic. The ones that come Friday evenings put on yarmulkes, light candles and pray in Hebrew.

The building is a synagogue on a tree-lined street in suburban Virginia, but for the past few weeks – during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – it has also been doubling daily as a mosque. Synagogue members suggested their building after hearing the Muslim congregation was looking to rent a place for overflow crowds.”

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LIVE FROM HONDURAS: History repeats itself

cosibahIn mid-August of this year, a contingent of Honduran policemen gathered near the headquarters of the Coalition of Honduran Banana and Agroindustrial Unions – COSIBAH – in the town of La Lima in northwestern Honduras. Founded in 1994, COSIBAH is a federation of seven unions, three of which are heavily involved in the resistance to the June 28 coup that overthrew Honduran President Mel Zelaya. According to the leaders of the organization, the police had intended to arrest them but had changed their minds after noting the large number of people present at the headquarters for a meeting; the staff nonetheless continued to take extra safety precautions such as monitoring suspicious vehicles in the area and keeping the front door of the building locked.

As for recent police endeavors that had not been thwarted, Iris Munguía – Secretary of Women at COSIBAH – described her experience at an anti-coup roadblock in San Pedro Sula on July 2, when after fleeing tear gas she had been shoved into the back of a police pickup truck and taken to jail. Subsequent analysis of such incidents had led Munguía and her colleagues to conclude that police repression in Honduras was gender-specific and that men were generally beaten on their heads and backs while women were beaten on their legs and rear ends. Munguía outlined additional forms of treatment the police reserved for females, such as yelling “¿Por qué no estás en la casa cocinando?” – “Why aren’t you at home cooking?” – and putting their tongues in the ears of nuns.

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LIVE FROM HONDURAS: Secrets of the Honduran armed forces

Joint US-Honduran Palmerola Air Base.

Joint US-Honduran Palmerola Air Base.

I was forced to visit the Honduran military museum in Tegucigalpa on my own after proving unable to convince any of my Honduran acquaintances that the armed forces were not sufficiently showcased on the streets. A few blocks from the parque central, the museum boasts signs denoting it as such on both sides of the building; I approached the side closest to the park and was directed by a teenage soldier to the opposite side of the building, where another teenage soldier denied that there was a museum on the premises.

The soldier nonetheless unlocked the gate for me and motioned me inside, whereupon I directed his attention to a banner listing all of the features of the museum, such as an arms exhibit and a library. He shrugged, and we stood staring at one another until two more young soldiers arrived to confirm that there was in fact a military museum but that it currently being renovated, by the military itself.

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