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Swine flu played role in Honduran coup

Presidents of Costa Rica and Colombia both contracted swine flu in the aftermath of the Honduran coup. (Photo: César Carrión)

The amnesty approved by the Honduran Congress the day before the January inauguration of President Pepe Lobo has recently taken effect, further legitimizing last year’s coup d’état against Mel Zelaya and prompting Honduran daily El Heraldo to produce a February 21 article entitled “Interested parties can now avail selves of amnesty law.” The article suggests that such parties consist of “Zelaya and his collaborators, who were seeking to overthrow the Constitution in order to authorize presidential reelection and introduce socialism into the country.”

The attempted introduction of socialism is not, however, listed as one of the 18 “violations of the law attributed to Zelaya” published in a July 2 La Prensa article justifying the coup, nor does the accusation explain why Zelaya’s minimum wage increase did not apply to employees of foreign-owned maquiladoras in Honduras. As for attempts to overthrow the Constitution, these presumably include number 11 on the list of alleged violations, which accuses Zelaya of “describing as ‘political’ the decisions made by the Public Ministry and the Supreme Court” according to which nonbinding public opinion surveys in order to gauge popular support for rewriting the Constitution are inherently unconstitutional. Not established in the El Heraldo article is whether the use of the adjective “political” by an elected head of state qualifies as a political crime currently pardonable by the Honduran amnesty law.

Despite the fact that coup-related military crimes were not to qualify as pardonable by the amnesty, the Supreme Court has already—in another presumably apolitical act—dismissed the charges against the military orchestrators of Zelaya’s removal in violation of the Constitutional prohibition against forcibly expatriating any Honduran citizen. Head of the armed forces Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, who continues to argue the apolitical nature of the military despite its perpetration of the coup, appears twice in the La Prensa list of accusations against Zelaya, first as the victim in accusation number 3—in which Zelaya wrongfully granted him three extra years as head of the armed forces—and then as the victim in number 18, in which he was wrongfully dismissed by Zelaya for refusing to carry out public opinion survey-related duties. (La Prensa does not elaborate on why it is illegal to dismiss an armed forces head who has just been described as illegal.)

The victim of accusation number 17 is meanwhile “a young girl infected with the H1N1 flu” who was “publicly exposed” by Zelaya in May on account of being the first H1N1 case detected in Honduras. A May 22 El Heraldo article reveals that the presentation of the 9-year-old at a press conference occurred in contravention of Article 34 of the Code of Childhood and Adolescence, which requires the media to respect children’s privacy; less crucial, apparently, is media respect for the privacy of other sectors of the populace, and El Heraldo has yet to be held accountable for passing off photographs of peaceful anti-coup resistance marchers to the Honduran police.

The source cited for the 18 alleged violations is Abriendo Brecha, a pro-coup television news program directed by Rodrigo Wong Arévalo, whose news commentary around the time of Zelaya’s sudden reappearance in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa included the facetious suggestion that among the president’s followers sleeping on the embassy floor were men hugging other men. It was not clear whether male hugs were what had resulted in the post-Honduran coup contraction of swine flu by both President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who will thus share not only flu immunity at the current Rio Group summit in Cancún but also support for recognition of illegitimate Honduran governments.

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