Two days prior to the scheduled visit to Honduras of a delegation from the Organization of American States (OAS), an abridged version of international diplomacy arrived in Tegucigalpa yesterday morning in the form of Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee who was nonetheless defined as US Senator by prominent Honduran newspapers. Ros-Lehtinen starred in a mid-day press conference at the presidential palace, an event also qualifying as abridged based on the lack of representatives of the anti-coup press.
The absence from the conference of Channel 36 TV and Radio Globo – the two media outlets forced off the air last week with coup president Roberto Micheletti’s decree of a state of emergency – was called into question when Micheletti assured the audience that his decree had been completely revoked. The possibility that the coup government might thus return confiscated broadcasting equipment to its rightful owners was promptly declined, however, when Micheletti declared that said owners would have to earn back their rights in a court of law.
The stated purpose of Ros-Lehtinen’s visit to Honduras was to assess the current state of affairs in Honduras, something coup president Roberto Micheletti has repeatedly accused the rest of the world of being blissfully oblivious to. Evidence suggesting that the assessment was conducted prior to arrival includes Ros-Lehtinen’s introduction last month of a House resolution urging recognition of the legitimacy of the upcoming Honduran elections without the restitution of legitimate President Mel Zelaya as a prerequisite, and Ros-Lehtinen’s silence yesterday at the selective lifting of emergency decrees.
Ros-Lehtinen nonetheless stressed her commitment to Honduran democracy and conviction in the sacred nature of the Honduran Constitution – a categorization that had recently been challenged by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who had described it as the worst such document on the face of the earth. The Florida Representative proceeded to express her concern that US withholding of select funds and travel documents from the coup government was only harming the citizens of Honduras, although she later conceded that it was also harming the US war on drugs as narcotraffickers would quickly discover that a Honduras without funds was incapable of purchasing radars.
Accompanying Ros-Lehtinen to Honduras were her south Florida congressional companions Lincoln Díaz-Balart and Mario Díaz-Balart. Micheletti failed to establish whether the poster proclaiming “Alianza de Miami, por Honduras” had been hung outside the presidential palace in honor of their visit, although he did refer to Ros-Lehtinen as an illustrious woman whose presence in Honduras was a reward from God. Ros-Lehtinen returned the cordialities by proclaiming that Micheletti was not at all de facto and that presidential succession in Cuba would hopefully one day produce a leader like him.
The Florida Representative refrained from mentioning the Castro succession by name, preferring to strike elsewhere on the hierarchy of international bogeymen and complaining that both Muammar Gaddafi and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been permitted to attend the recent United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, despite the fact that the former had not been elected and the latter had been elected via fraud. As for the coup government of Honduras that was not permitted to attend, Ros-Lehtinen reasoned that just because Micheletti had not been elected, either, did not mean that he had not risen to power in accordance with the law.
Ros-Lehtinen’s tactic of haphazard name-dropping in order to distract her audience from the illegitimacy of the Honduran coup regime suffered additional setbacks with Micheletti’s revelation that his “completely revoked” emergency decree had not in fact been revoked completely, apparently placing him in the same boat as the international bogeymen Ros-Lehtinen had accused of media repression. Ros-Lehtinen meanwhile blamed the propagation of such misconceptions on CNN, which has mysteriously and spontaneously been deemed a bastion of radical leftism by Honduran golpistas – who can then presumably argue that even bastions of radical leftism are permitted to broadcast in Honduras.
Assuring Micheletti that her community in south Florida was conscious of what was happening in Honduras despite media efforts, Ros-Lehtinen stressed that the coup regime was not in a position of international isolation and pledged to invite all of her “colleagues” to visit the Central American nation. She offered a list of sample colleagues that included all US Congress members, mayors, governors, and foreign governments, plus individualized invitees such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. Not listed was Massachusetts Representative Bill Delahunt, who had however been falsely included on Ros-Lehtinen’s list of endorsements for her trip to Honduras despite his opposition to the coup; McConnell’s efforts to facilitate the recent Honduran excursion by South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint meanwhile indicated that McConnell probably already knew of his invitation.
Regarding Obama’s invitation, Ros-Lehtinen reminded the press conference audience that she had not come to Honduras to condemn the Latin American policy of the president, who was “mi presidente” despite the fact that she had not voted for him. Whether the emphasis on open-mindedness was part of an effort to convince Hondurans that they might also adopt a president they hadn’t voted for was not explained, nor was Micheletti’s apparent focus on international rather than domestic adoption by announcing that the coup regime’s heart was open not just for the OAS but for the entire world.
I had just begun to wonder if Ros-Lehtinen and Micheletti were not perhaps receiving commission from a Honduran travel agency when Ros-Lehtinen herself pointed out that the tourism industry was suffering and added the following travel enticement: “Si les interesa la democracia, vengan a Honduras!” – “If you’re interested in democracy, come to Honduras!” She added that like-minded Hondurans could not reciprocate American visits at the moment due to lack of visas, causing Micheletti to chortle; not established was whether the invitation to the entire world included Libya and Iran.
As for Ros-Lehtinen’s appeal for election observers to take advantage of Honduran travel opportunities, the Florida Representative stressed that the precedent for voter turnouts under difficult conditions had already been set in Iraq and Afghanistan and that Zelaya’s intention to discourage voting by filling the population with dread would prove ineffective. Other varieties of popular dread were meanwhile potentially assuaged to some extent with the revocation of the emergency decree.
Micheletti revealed in the question-and-answer section of the press conference that Channel 36 and Radio Globo were not the only elements of Honduran society that would be required to submit to a judicial process and that the orchestrators of Zelaya’s expatriation would be punished, as well, despite the fact that Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution clearly prohibited reelected presidents. The proposal that the only crime of the Honduran coup regime had been to respect the law was meanwhile put forth by Ros-Lehtinen, whom Micheletti continued to refer to as illustrious.
Such terminology was momentarily called into question when a member of the press inquired as to how the minority party in the US hoped to alter government policies. Ros-Lehtinen dispelled such concerns with the claim that even minorities were listened to in democratic societies like the US and Honduras, a claim apparently seconded by Micheletti when he declared that he would remain in power until January 27.
First published in Narco News, 6 October 2009