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On July 25, Florida Republican Connie Mack led a congressional delegation (CODEL, in officialese) to Honduras. The trip was remarkable for a couple of reasons. First, it was a slap in the face to President Obama, whose administration has refused to recognize the de facto regime installed after a military coup on June 28. Second, Mack and his delegation were the first representatives from any government in the world to visit the coup regime. Last week, he released the official report about his trip and I would like to share a few of the highlights.

To avoid pricking the fussy balloon of Connie Mack’s ego, I shall forthwith refer to him, as his report does, as Ranking Member Mack, and to his delegation as the CODEL MACK. One might think of the CODEL MACK as a very large airplane on a very short runway, too short, in fact, to get a good run at lift-off, and the airplane becoming rather quickly mired in the weeds off to one end. The ranking member was determined to lead a fact-finding tour to Honduras and set the Obama administration and our embassy there straight about the coup. The problem was, nobody wanted to go with him.

Ranking Member Mack requested permission to travel to Honduras during the weekend of July 25, 2009. As required by Congressional rules, Ranking Member Mack asked that Democratic colleagues join him; in fact, Mr. Mack called more than a dozen of his Democratic colleagues to join him on his trip to Honduras, but none agreed.

(It would be much easier to understand our congress if we would just accept that it is one huge, dysfunctional junior high school and that a certain ranking member is such a tattletale.) Were there no Republicans he could have called? Surely colleagues from his own party would defer to his rank and accompany him on this vital foray into the international arena. The CODEL report is strangely silent on the matter of how many Republican colleagues he telephoned. In the end, I am sorry to report that CODEL MACK revved up its engines and taxied for take-off with just two passengers aboard:

The CODEL was led by Ranking Member Connie Mack (R-FL), and was joined by Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-CA).

Fine, so it was less an aircraft than a ranking penguin waddling down the runway with a congress-chick in tow. Brian Bilbray might seem an unlikely partner in this madcap adventure, tending, as he does, to dislike the babies of brown people, to dislike them so much, in fact, that he has sponsored legislation to deny U.S. citizenship to any baby born to undocumented immigrants on U.S. soil. Perhaps he was unaware that one million Hondurans live, work and have babies in the United States, or perhaps CODEL MACK sent advance word to the embassy that Congressman Brian Bilbray was not to be exposed to any brown babies during his trip. We can’t know for certain what might have prompted him to overcome his abhorrence and join the delegation (of two), but it helps to know the de facto regime had hired a lobbyist, Bennett Ratcliff, from his district, who might be assumed to have sweetened his deal with the golpistas by throwing in a congressman.

Now, it is important to understand that the de facto regime in Honduras was awaiting the arrival of these important northern dignitaries with tremendous excitement. It had been a month since a military coup installed the regime, and nobody, and I do mean nobody, in the world had given it the time of day. The world refused to recognize it. The United Nations General Assembly, acting on a resolution co-sponsored by the United States, refused to recognize it. The Organization of American States wouldn’t accept it. The European Union didn’t recognize it and had withdrawn its ambassadors. The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank didn’t recognize it and had frozen aid payments. And, of course, the United States didn’t recognize it. The coup regime had been sitting there in the Casa Presidencial all by itself and it was lonely. It needed a friend. And Ranking Member Mack was going to defy U.S. foreign policy, fly to Honduras and give it a hug.

Oh, expectations were running high in the lonelier barrios of Tegucigalpa that day. Rumors ran wild in the leading right-wing newspapers, owned by Honduran businessman and coup architect Jorge Canahuati. A delegation of senators was coming! A senator named Tom Demin was coming! Jeb Bush would join the delegation later! No, it would be Charlie Crist!

The CODEL report records the delegation’s arrival and Ranking Member Mack’s keen observations from the ground in terse detail:

12:30 p.m. Arrival in Tegucigalpa, Honduras

The CODEL departed Washington, D.C. at 7:00 a.m., flying on Delta Airlines to Tegucigalpa. Mr. Mack was met at the Toncontin International Airport by U.S. Ambassador Llorens, his staff, and a security detail.

The CODEL and Ambassador Llorens departed the airport and drove through the streets of Tegucigalpa toward the Ambassador's residence. During the drive, Congressman Mack was able to observe Hondurans participating in their daily activities. He noticed that businesses were open and that people were able to travel throughout the streets without any trouble. On the route toward the Ambassador's residence, the CODEL did notice some graffiti on the walls of residences that ranged from "apoyamos Presidente Micheletti" ("we support President Micheletti") to "no apoyamos el golpe" ("we do not support the coup").

All quiet on the southern front.

Now, the graffiti I’ve seen about Micheletti has been considerably more colorful and would have enlivened the CODEL report tremendously, but I’ll happily trade all that for the neutered reality presented by Ranking Member Mack, where Hondurans dutifully trudge into their streets to write:

We support the coup.
We do not support the coup.
We support the coup.
We do not support the coup.

But, were things as quiet as they seemed? Let us pause for a brief excursion beyond Tegucigalpa to the Honduran department of El Paraíso which was, at the very moment of CODEL MACK’s arrival, under a state of siege, occupied by an estimated 5,000 army troops with 14 roadblocks in place to prevent Hondurans from marching to the Nicaraguan border to receive their legitimate president, Manuel Zelaya. Since noon of the previous day, the department had been under military lockdown. Nobody could leave their homes. Constitutional guarantees, including the right of habeas corpus, were suspended. Thousands of Hondurans were trapped between roadblocks, without food and water, and were unable to leave. A humanitarian crisis was brewing.

In fact, just a few hours before Ranking Member Mack was receiving his remedial Spanish lesson and admiring Tegucigalpa’s quiet streets through the tinted windows of an armored suburban accompanied by a security detail, a body had been discovered in a field just a few meters from one of those El Paraíso roadblocks. The deceased, 23 year-old Pedro Muñoz, had last been seen in the company of the Honduran police, who detained him after he burned a tire to protest the army roadblocks, where police and soldiers had fired teargas and bullets into a crowd of protestors. His body showed multiple bruises, stab wounds and cuts around the wrists, inflicted as the young man tried to escape from handcuffs as he was being tortured. Here’s a detail from an AP photo of the body, not shown in the ranking member’s report. The people who discovered the body that morning had placed a red rose on his chest.

Photobucket

To be continued . . .

This diary ran longer than I expected, so I’ve decided to make it into a series. I will conclude this first part with a lovely song written in response to the coup by Honduran folksinger José "Yeco" Hernández, and a video with images of the first few days of protests. Since the time this video was made, protests have grown and army and police repression has become more brutal. Beatings and detention of protestors are now a daily occurrence, and media repression and assassinations by the coup regime are well-documented.

La hora del traidor, la hora del espejo, la hora del farsante, la hora del invierno . . . la hora de la patria mordida por un perro, la hora de sus llantos y medidas sin remedio, la hora del gusano, del cura y del veneno . . . la hora de la patria que solloza a lo lejos.

The time of the traitor, the time of the mirror, the time of the imposter, the time of winter . . . the time of the homeland bitten by a dog, the time of its weeping and remedies without hope, the time of the worm, the priest and the poison . . . the time of the homeland sobbing far away.

Originally posted to cadejo4 on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 08:16 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    "I had seen the universe as it begins for all things. It was, in reality, a child's universe, a tiny and laughing universe." Loren Eiseley

    by cadejo4 on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 08:16:42 AM PDT

  •  Ranking Member Connie Mack (R-FL) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cadejo4

    was actually using the government thing to cover up the fact that he was scouting for the Miami Marlins.

    His great grandfather's influence suddenly overwhelmed him.

    I believed, but I'm damn glad it is now reality.

    by alasmoses on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 08:23:47 AM PDT

  •  thank you for this lovely (5+ / 0-)

    moving, and powerful report!! please everyone recommend this diary.  With Democrats wimping out on domestic reform, can't we get them to AT LEAST support democratically elected governments in Latin America and to STOP supporting death squads?

    Met by the U.S. Ambassador?!!! WTF?? of course, he's Bush's guy, still there, ominously enough, the only Ambassador from any country still there...

    Please everyone let's make the torture and murder of human rights and democracy advocates in Latin America as important to us as the boycott of Whole Foods or any of our domestic priorities.

  •  Nothing to see here (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cadejo4, Lujane

    It was clear from the outset that Honduras's de facto regime could limp along until November's scheduled elections, and that the US wouldn't do anything seriously punitive...because we didn't really care too much, because "sanctions hurt the poor" (relatively true in the Honduran case), etc.  I imagine that whatever pressure is now being exerted by the US against Micheletti is limited to guarantees about the elections.  Zelaya obviously isn't going to return to Honduras except if he's accompanied by a Venezuelan expeditionary force, and that's about as likely as a Martian invasion.

    Al que no le guste el caldo, le dan dos tazas.

    by Rich in PA on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 08:24:34 AM PDT

  •  Obama is on the wrong side of this issue. (0+ / 0-)
    I am convinced that Obama opened his mouth too soon and without understanding what had been happening in Honduras.  Having said what he did, the US was sort of stuck with that position, but they are now quietly waiting out the clock for the November elections.  Zeleya's actions in the past weeks have illustrated better than anything just why the Supreme Court removed him from his office and I rather suspect that many of his international supporters are now embarrassed by him.
    Personally, I can't understand the support from some quarters for this guy.  Does anyone really doubt that he was trying to duplicate what Chavez did in Venezuela?  Where is all the outrage over his subversion of democracy?  I am not about to suggest that the Micheletti government is perfect, but who here would chose Chavez over them?
    Come November, there will be a new government and when it takes office, the rest of the world will quietly return their relations with Honduras to normal and everyone will forget Zeleya.  I think it's worth noting that there is no candidate really carrying his banner in the election; if he had that much support, there would be.
    •  The Supreme Court did not remove him from office (5+ / 0-)

      If you would just read the expediente at its web site you would understand that. The Supreme Court does not have that authority and did not, at any point, ever order his deposition. It did issue an arrest warrant to bring him before a court and initiate a trial concerning his failure to abide by court rulings that prohibited a survey. The army decided that, rather than bring him to court, it would depose him. It is specifically prohibited by the Honduran constitution from making making these kinds of "deliberative" decisions. What the world is concerned about is that the army took it upon itself to depose the president and the army has admitted that it acted illegally.

      In some sense, this is no longer about Zelaya. The coup has sparked a social movement with a broad agenda for reform in Honduras, including constitutional reform. The electoral process is now in doubt. It is unclear whether the world will endorse an election conducted by an illegitimate government, and it appears the resistance movement is also opposed to the election.

      "I had seen the universe as it begins for all things. It was, in reality, a child's universe, a tiny and laughing universe." Loren Eiseley

      by cadejo4 on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 09:03:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  November (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lujane

        Unless there are clear cases of voter intimidation and suppression, I would be very surprised if the world governments (other that Chavez and his buddies) fail to recognize the government of Honduras after the elections.  Would they claim that Zeyala was still the president even after his term had expired?
        I'm aware that the constitution of Honduras leaves no obvious way to remove the executive, even though he was found to have relinquished his office by trying to subvert the constitution.  If there are changes, that is one that needs to be made.
        I have no problem with social reform in Honduras.  Mr. Zelaya was elected and had a full term to work on this.  He clearly didn't get as much done as he wanted - who ever does? - but he was prohibited from running again and he knew that.  So he should have found a candidate who felt as he did (such as his foreign minister) and campaigned hard for her to be elected.
        btw, my interest in Honduras comes from the fact that for years, I have sponsored children there through Children International.  I've even been down there to visit them.  Obviously, I'd like to see things improve.  I found it interesting, though, when I was down there in February of this year that the Children Intentional staff who I spoke to were uniformly opposed to Zelaya.

    •  I think there are a couple of problems (4+ / 0-)

      first is that I think Obama is trying to work through the OAS and other 'local' agencies rather than coming down hard and publicly, an act which would give the junta more reasons to crack down.

      Second is I think a little cultural blindness here - Zelaya's actions are within the cultural context in the area, it might seem a little fringe to us in the USA, but these kinds of theatrics are not at all uncommon - Iwas privileged to be around for one of the Zapatista marches for examples..fun stuff although "ridiculous" by our "standards"

      Third, given the level of oppression from the junta there's little doubt why noone is carrying Zelaya's "flag."  Whether anyone does or not is really dependent on what happens diplomatically between now and then.

      Second, really ease up on the 'subversion of democracy' bit - there was nothing in the 'survey' about term limits, despite what the Junta put out to the contrary.  The Junta planed this well in advance and Zelaya was elected...so if there is suppression of democracy it is the Junta doing it.

      And if you don't trust me, then look at the fact that it is Connie Mack down there doing the circle jerk with the junta, that ought to be a rather large clue.

      "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

      by SteveP on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 10:07:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Survey (0+ / 0-)

        It was fairly obvious to anyone who looked at it what Zelaya was trying to do.  The fact that the ballots for the survey came from Venezuela was one of many huge red flags.  The people of Honduras had seen that movie before in other countries and they decided that they just didn't want to see it happen there.  They fought too hard for democracy to see another 'strong man' take over.
        Of course Zelaya was elected, but so was the Congress that voted overwhelmingly to seat Micheletti in his place.  Zelaya's term was nearly up and he wanted to stay in power.  Micheletti isn't running to be elected in November, nor is anyone in the military.  One of the leading candidates is Zeleya's own Vice President, who resigned so he could run.
        The military made the decision to deport Zelaya rather than arrest him because they thought it would cause less bloodshed.  They acted outside of the law when they did that, but it's far from clear how things would have turned out had they simply put him on trial.  Things might have been worse; no one can say now.
        I am curious as to why people are prepared to say that the executive branch of the government has to be the one that was right in this case?  Zelaya was only one man and both of the other branches of government, the legislative and judiciary acted against him in nearly unanimous fashion.  Isn't it a lot more likely that one person had gone nuts rather than several hundred?

        •  please, Venezuela is not the new red threat (5+ / 0-)

          and the people of Honduras had nothing to do with the coup, please don't get too wrapped up in the anti-Chavez propaganda.

          re: the one vs. Hundreds argument.  It wasn't just one, but I tend to think the person who was elected vs. a military junta and their puppet appointee will be the wrong side of things 99% of the time.  Particularly if Connie Mack is siding with them.

          We have a serious problem in our news coverage regarding Venezuela and people demonizing anything that Chavez has even the most tengential connection to.  

          Zelaya was more or less a conservative friend of business when elected as were the members of congress down there, Zelaya saw the corruption and the way the people were treated and wanted to change that, the military and the congress didn't want to upset their own gravy train and planned this well in advance.

          "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

          by SteveP on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 10:29:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Venezuela (0+ / 0-)

            You talk about the 'one who was elected' but the fact remains that the Congress was also elected.  It's not logical to suggest that this was planned well in advance.  Zelaya's term was up in a few month's time; his opponents only had to wait him out.  His attempts to illegally stay in power are what triggered this crisis.
            You are right in that Venezuela is no the new 'red threat' but surely you must agree that Chavez is no friend of democracy.

            •  I wouldn't agree with that (4+ / 0-)

              but that's another issue. Evidence is coming out that it was planned well in advance, as early as last fall and encouraged by Otto Reich.  Don't get tool far into deductive thinking on this, we don't have to guess that much about the planning issue.

              And I MUST insist - please read source material.  There was NOTHING about the term limits in any of this.  Nor were the resolutions that were past referenced to the statutes as regards this.  You really need to read alternative sources of information. The term limit things is a canard that was clearly promulgated to the media to portray Zelaya in this light and was clearly planted in advance.

              "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

              by SteveP on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 11:03:37 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Info (0+ / 0-)

                I do not rely on the MSM for my info, I'm well aware of how things get skewed.  However, if this was not about term limits, there is no logic to it.  Zelaya's term was nearly up.  It seems most logical to me that this was in response to his actions with what he was trying to pull and when he defied the Supreme Court and led a mob to seize the ballots; that was the trigger.

                •  He crossed the Estado Mayor (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Sandino

                  when he fired General Romeo Vasquez, head of the joint chiefs. That was the unpardonable sin.

                  "I had seen the universe as it begins for all things. It was, in reality, a child's universe, a tiny and laughing universe." Loren Eiseley

                  by cadejo4 on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 12:07:21 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Not to mention (0+ / 0-)

                    He fired a general who refused to break the law as interpreted by the Supreme Court.  It wasn't a 'sin' for Zelaya to do that, it was illegal as the court made clear.  All Vasquez was doing was refusing to provide security for a vote the court had declared illegal.  So who was following the rules and who was breaking them?

                    •  You miss my point (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      truong son traveler

                      Since the Honduran army is the real power in the country, any attempt by a civilian government to control it is unacceptable. Everyone who lives in Latin America immediately recognized that point, and thus every country in the hemisphere condemns the army coup, including Mexico and Colombia.

                      Seriously, man, write your own diary. I'm tired of responding to Lanny Davis talking points.

                      "I had seen the universe as it begins for all things. It was, in reality, a child's universe, a tiny and laughing universe." Loren Eiseley

                      by cadejo4 on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 12:38:30 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

    •  fucking Militarist Pig. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      truong son traveler, Sandino

      If you don't like democracy, go sit next to Pinochet.

      If we leave it up to our elected officials, nothing will ever get done - Kos

      by Tom J on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 10:43:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oh sh*t... (5+ / 0-)

    torture and death is back in Honduras.

    I'm sorry, but Obama could have stopped this if he cared too.

    "The military industrial complex not only controls our government, lock, stock and barrel, but they control our culture." - Mike Gravel

    by Wilberforce on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 09:35:32 AM PDT

    •  I think he's trying (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sandino, cadejo4

      but I think he is correctly trying to do it behind the scenes through diplomacy with Honduras' neighbours.  I think, given the US history in te area that it is the right way to do things even though it may seem unsatisfying to those of us who oppose the Junta.

      "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

      by SteveP on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 10:09:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  every Latin American democracy (4+ / 0-)

        has reason to fear, if the U.S. goes back to its old ways of supporting military juntas with their armed assassins.  They are begging the U.S. the biggest supporter of Honduras financially, to do more to end the terror.

        •  And the other thing that I hesitate to say (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          truong son traveler, Sandino, cadejo4

          in this forum is that Honduras, like many latin American nations have truly messed up constitutional and statutory structures that are archaic leftovers of the post colonial periods and the various rightwing dictatorships promulgated by imperialist powers in the area.  The kinds of constitutional reforms that Zelaya might have envisioned are SORELY needed to make these militaries the servants of the civilian governments (probably the real reason behind the coup).  And this isn't confined to Honduras either - even in "leftist" governments there is an unhealthy and undemocratic element to the structures of government. Ortega's brother in Nicaragua for example. The entrenchment of the military in Venezuela - and these are actually far less entrenched than in right wing places like Panama, Ecuador and so on where the Military really does run the show.

          Military establishments do NOT give up power willingly. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the USA experiment was how effectively we excised the military from the government as the founders intended as regards standing armies.  As Eisenhower foresaw these lines are being blurred and it will take some time and concerted effort to redraw those lines after the last administration.

          "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

          by SteveP on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 11:26:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Reform (0+ / 0-)

            I see no evidence that Zelaya's intent was that sort of constitutional reform.  I mean, come on, the guy's sponsor was Chavez.  He was trying to do the same thing that all of Chavez other followers have done, do away with term limits.  If he had other intentions, he should have been open about them and tried to build a consensus within the elected members of Congress.  The guy was a cowboy no different to Bush.

            •  Like Uribe? (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              truong son traveler, Sandino, SteveP

              You have no evidence that Zelaya was trying to do away with term limits. He was conducting a survey on whether people wanted to have a vote in November on whether to hold a constituent assembly at some later date to reform the constitution. Since the presidential elections were to be held on that same date in November, there was no possibility of Zelaya serving another term.

              This issue is obviously very important to you. Why not write your own diary about it?

              "I had seen the universe as it begins for all things. It was, in reality, a child's universe, a tiny and laughing universe." Loren Eiseley

              by cadejo4 on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 12:03:40 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  what nonsense (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              truong son traveler, Sandino, cadejo4

              I am sorry - but do you acknowledge that term limits were not on the survey?  Until you acknowledge this, I can only assume that you are one of these, there's a Chavez under every bed  McCarthyites.

              "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

              by SteveP on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 12:08:42 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Panama? I thought they have no military (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            SteveP

            like Costa Rica.

            "The military industrial complex not only controls our government, lock, stock and barrel, but they control our culture." - Mike Gravel

            by Wilberforce on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 02:46:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  yes, but...... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Wilberforce, truong son traveler

              Panama theoretically removed its military after the invasion - constitutionally as well.  However a lot of the same players are in the PPF which are th "temporary" military/defense/security force who theoretically have public records and are beholden to the president who until last month was Martin Trujillo, the son of the former military dictator who was from the PRD whish was long the political arm/front of the military.

              Martinelli, the current president, like Trujillo is a graduate of a military preparatory academy in the USA.

              "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

              by SteveP on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 03:02:48 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  OK thanks... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                truong son traveler, SteveP

                I'll read more about that at some point...

                "The military industrial complex not only controls our government, lock, stock and barrel, but they control our culture." - Mike Gravel

                by Wilberforce on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 03:30:29 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Panama was probably not the best current example (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Wilberforce

                  because of the weird situation...

                  "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

                  by SteveP on Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 04:09:59 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

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