With the inauguration tomorrow of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo as president of Honduras, the Honduran coup regime will attempt to establish a definitive answer to the question of how many presidents the Central American nation has. Since June 28, the date of the coup d’état against President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya and the installation of the illegitimate government of Roberto Micheletti, estimates have fluctuated between 0 and 3 presidents; the former figure followed a forged resignation letter from Zelaya in June, the latter Lobo’s election in November.
Micheletti has contributed to the perceived lack of a Honduran president on two additional post-June occasions, first during his pre-electoral vacation and now during his pre-inaugural withdrawal from the political scene “in order to rest.” According to the January 22 edition of the Honduran daily La Tribuna, the current absence is not a decision Micheletti arrived at on his own following an evening of “meditation”—as he himself claimed—but rather a U.S. government recommendation for making Lobo’s ascension to power less blatantly linked to the coup and more internationally palatable.
The daily El Heraldo has proved less adept at grasping the undesirability of blatant linkage and has responded to the coup president’s disappearance by publishing a 12-page insert two days prior to the inauguration entitled “Micheletti, defender of democracy”—in which he is also described as a national hero and the protector of Honduras’ non-socialist identity. The insert includes photographs of Micheletti’s childhood and a nostalgic log of milestones that occurred during his 7-month presidency, such as “the time he ordered the Brazilian functionary to read the Honduran Constitution before making requests that were out of line [regarding the restitution of Zelaya]”.
Had he heeded this advice, the Brazilian functionary would presumably have understood that Micheletti’s attempt to prolong the presidency of Roberto Suazo Córdova in 1985 was more of a violation of the Constitutional prohibition on multiple presidential terms than was Zelaya’s attempt to ask the Honduran populace in a nonbinding survey whether it wished to rewrite a national Constitution that was consistently exploited by the country’s elite. Said Brazilian may also have questioned why the Constitutional prohibition of the presidential candidature of the current president of Congress had not applied to Micheletti’s participation in the Honduran presidential primaries of 2008.
Congress itself has apparently deemed such inconsistencies irrelevant, and Congress members were reported yesterday as giving Micheletti a standing ovation in absentia—with his absence this time being attributed to hospitalization for high blood sugar rather than to decrees by U.S. government representatives. A woman named Francisca from the northern Honduran town of Tocoa suggested to me last night in Tegucigalpa that the festive air prevailing in the Congress building would not extend to Lobo’s inauguration, which would “not be the same as past inauguration ceremonies” based on the fact that the Prince of Asturias would not be in attendance.
Other distinctions included that there was now a security ban on sun umbrellas inside the stadium where the ceremony would take place. Francisca meanwhile persisted with archaic perceptions of the global balance of power and demanded to know whether Prince Felipe had legitimized Barack Obama’s inauguration with his presence; she remained unmoved by the scheduled presence at the Tegucigalpa stadium of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Craig Kelly, and the mayor of Guatemala City.
El Heraldo had also complained about Spain’s obdurateness in the face of the great Honduran effort at national reconciliation, and the fact that Lobo was not permitted to visit the European country as desired. The profoundness of Honduran democratic endeavors may yet soften the heart of the Prince of Asturias, however, once the Congress has reached a decision on the proposed amnesty for all political crimes committed in conjunction with the coup d’état—expected to be approved today.