I sometimes wonder whether Latin America’s history would be different if we’d had the Internet back in the 1980s, whether blogs could have prevented the coups, the scorched earth campaigns, the political assassinations, the torture and disappearances. Whether mothers like Rosario Godoy in Guatemala would still have been forced to watch soldiers ripping out her infant son’s fingernails. Whether Archbishop Romero would still have been assassinated by an army death squad as he was saying mass. Whether the Battalion 316 would have sown terror in Honduras, under the tutelage of the U.S. and Argentine armies. Whether Patricia Rodas, the legitimate Honduran foreign minister, would have fled her country as a young girl to escape army repression. Could we have stopped any of that?
This is the second in a series of diaries about Connie Mack’s misguided journey to Honduras to recognize a regime no country in the world, including Mexico and Colombia, has recognized and to publicly embarrass President Obama. Those who read yesterday’s diary know that we are referring to the congressman by his real and true and only title of Ranking Member Mack and to his delegation (consisting of himself and Brian Bilbray) as the CODEL MACK.
When we last left CODEL MACK, it was on its way to the ambassador’s residence for lunch, the first stop of the tour.
1:00 p.m. -- Meeting with Ambassador Hugo Llorens
The CODEL was welcomed by Ambassador Llorens for a luncheon/briefing. At the luncheon, Ambassador Llorens had his Deputy Chief of Mission, economic, political, DEA and military team present.
During the luncheon, Ambassador Llorens emphasized that what had occurred on June 28, 2009, was a coup. One key topic discussed was United States aid to Honduras and the recent decision by the Obama Administration to cut it. Ranking Member Mack emphasized to the Ambassador that it was urgent that the Obama Administration reconsider its decision to withhold economic aid and not take any further action.
The ambassador’s staff dealt with the regime’s bogus argument that an army coup had not occurred in Honduras:
Members of the Ambassador’s staff briefed the CODEL on how Section 239 of the Honduran Constitution was a "post-removal" discovery by Honduran President Micheletti. Based on this determination, the Ambassador and his staff felt it was unnecessary to discuss in detail Section 239 and its applicability to the removal.
Finally, the ranking member insisted on meeting with the coup regime, over the ambassador’s protestations:
After ending the luncheon, the Ambassador re-emphasized the Obama Administration's policy of no contact with Honduran President Micheletti. Congressman Mack nonetheless demanded that all sides should have their arguments heard, and therefore insisted on the meeting.
There you have it. Look at Ranking Member Mack's word choices. He emphasized the urgency to reconsider. He "demanded." He "insisted." The CODEL MACK, representing exactly two congressmen from a minority political party, had gone to Honduras to shape U.S. policy and was dead set on meeting with the illegitimate regime, after the ambassador specifically implored him not to. (Where Bilbray was during lunch, I have no idea. Perhaps he saw babies on his ride to the ambassador’s residence and had a case of the vapors.)
The CODEL jumped back in the suburban:
2:30 p.m. -- Meeting with President Roberto Micheletti
Because the Obama Administration does not recognize the Micheletti-led government, Ambassador Llorens and his team remained at the Ambassador's residence as the CODEL went to the Presidential Palace. The CODEL was escorted by both American and Honduran security forces and drove toward the center of Tegucigalpa, where the Presidential Palace is located. During this 15 - minute drive, the CODEL was able to observe Hondurans enjoying their weekend activities, which ranged from playing soccer in the fields of Tegucigalpa to grocery shopping.
Now, let’s back up 26 minutes to 2:04 p.m. The Honduran de facto regime has been making full use of its ability to interrupt all broadcast media at any moment for announcements, and at 2:04 p.m. that day television and radio stations throughout the country were forced to carry the regime’s announcement of an extension of the curfew (actually a state of siege, because constitutional guarantees are suspended at certain hours of the day – you can think of it as a constitutional blackout). On this particular day, it announced that the state of siege in the department of El Paraíso, already in effect, would be extended from 6 p.m. that night until 6 a.m. the next day (at which point it was extended another 12 hours, and so on around the clock.) The blackout for the rest of the country would be from 12:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m.
The state of siege would, as it turned out, last for more than a week and plunged the department into a humanitarian crisis requiring relief shipments of food, water and medicine from the Red Cross. We have already seen another example of the regime’s handiwork in El Paraíso in the photo (above) of the body discovered on the morning of CODEL MACK’s arrival.
Here is a cartoon published by caricaturist Luís Chávez in El Tiempo newspaper on July 31, about the situation in El Paraíso as the siege dragged on six days later:
The text in the upper left corner reads "24-hour curfew in El Paraíso." The woman in the house is saying, "Please go to the pulpería [the Honduran word for a corner store] and buy me eight whitebreads and four eggs. We haven’t eaten anything." The soldier is saying, "Get that nose inside."
Of course, the ranking member was blissfully unaware of all of this as he rode about in his hermetically-sealed suburban with the radio off, gaping at grocery stores through tinted glass and recording his first-hand experience of 15 minutes worth of Honduran life.
As we have already noted, the coup leaders were giddy with expectation about this visit. CODEL MACK was the first official delegation from any country in the world to come calling. Right-wing newspapers insisted throughout the day that a delegation of senators had come to Honduras and they speculated that Jeb Bush would be joining it. Nobody, of course, had ever heard of Ranking Member Mack or Congressman Bilbray, which was just as well, since Bilbray would be about the most loathsome person imaginable to most Hondurans, not to mention most Latin Americans.
At the Presidential Palace of Honduras, the meeting with President Micheletti lasted over two hours. President Micheletti was joined by Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos López Contreras, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Marta Lorena Alvarado de Casco, and Congresswoman Marcia Villeda.
President Micheletti gave several copies of the Honduran Constitution to the members of the delegation and asked them to examine several articles of the Constitution, including Article 239.
And he wonders why he doesn’t have more visitors. We’ve been through the Honduran constitution thoroughly on Daily Kos threads. Here’s what the Honduran constitution says about the army using an arrest warrant to kidnap any citizen, much less the president, and send them out of the country: Nothing. The army does not have that power. The army has admitted that it did not have that power and that it acted illegally. But don’t just take my word and the army’s word for it. Micheletti himself finally came to that realization yesterday, in an interview with Bloomberg:
Acting Honduran President Roberto Micheletti said forcing deposed President Manuel Zelaya to leave the country, instead of arresting him, was a mistake.
"There was an error by a certain sector," Micheletti said today in an interview in Tegucigalpa. "It wasn’t correct. We have to punish whoever allowed that to happen. The rest was framed within what the constitution requires."
But, wait. If a "mistake" (a punishable mistake is called a crime) was made, where does that leave us? Yes, the court had issued an arrest warrant on a complaint filed by the Public Ministry, but it hadn’t found Zelaya guilty of anything and certainly hadn’t deposed him. So where does that leave us? Yeap, right back where we were on Day 1, when every nation in the world, including every Latin American country, the United Nations and the Organization of American States condemned the coup and said Zelaya is still president. You see, they all knew what they were talking about after all. They have smart people working for them who read Spanish and are well-versed in local law to give them a quick verdict (not that the sight of tanks roaming the streets wasn’t a dead giveaway): This was an illegal military coup.
"A certain sector" means the army, by the way, whose name no one ever dares to speak in a military regime and which has exactly zero chance of ever being punished. "The rest" means that whole second act that came after the illegal removal of the president by the army, when a forged letter of resignation was read to congress and Micheletti was named president. Need I say there’s no provision in the constitution for any of that either?
It’s neither here nor there, but I enjoyed this tidbit from Bloomberg’s interview with Micheletti, who was "seated in his home near a green bust of himself and surrounded by a collection of Chinese, Japanese and Middle Eastern swords."
But we have strayed from Ranking Member Mack, seated with Micheletti in the Presidential Palace, all-unknowing that three short weeks later Micheletti would himself declare the deposition a "mistake" (which, by the way, is why it is never a good idea for congressmen to skip out of town and recognize illegitimate regimes all by themselves).
The meeting ended with Ranking Member Mack expressing to President Micheletti that the American people want to support the democratic ambitions of the people of Honduras. As to former President Zelaya, Ranking Member Mack highlighted the fact that Mr. Zelaya must not return to power, as he is no longer the President of Honduras and is a wanted criminal by the Honduran judicial system.
I wonder if the ranking member feels a little bit silly today, on the heels of Micheletti’s subsequent admission and maybe wishes he’d never written this report. I know it’s probably not in his nature, but if it was me, I’d be slinking down the halls of Congress wondering whether people were pointing at me and snickering behind my back.
At the end of the meeting, the Honduran press was allowed to enter the room and take photos of the CODEL and President Micheletti. Shortly thereafter, the CODEL was escorted by the United States and Honduran security teams to their vehicles, and traveled back to the Ambassador’s residence.
I'll spare readers the photo.
We will conclude tomorrow, when Ranking Member Mack meets with the Supreme Court, and we hear the most remarkably idiotic statement ever uttered in the history of jurisprudence.
I’ll close with another song by Honduran trovador José Yeco, "La camisita blanca." The song is about the pro-coup demonstrations organized by the Honduran oligarchy, which some PR firm had the good sense to design with white space, achieved by giving everyone a white T-shirt to wear. They really were lovely creations, politely escorted by the same army and police who have been tear gassing, beating and murdering folks in the anti-coup demonstrations. Camisita blanca in English is "little white shirt," and a T-shirt is a camiseta or playera. A camisetilla blanca is a little white T-shirt. People who participate in the pro-coup demonstrations are called camisetas blancas, just as we might say brownshirts in English. Some of the logos in this video are official coup sponsors or apologists. It appears Honduras also has its dumb blond newscasters.