17 January 2010

Honduras : Micheletti Becoming 'Second Pinochet'?

'Congressman for Life' Roberto Micheletti. Art by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff / IndyBay.

Honduran coup consolidating power:
Micheletti named 'Congressman for Life'

By David Holmes Morris / The Rag Blog / January 17, 2010

As violent repression continues, the powers that be in Honduras have taken symbolic and substantive steps to consolidate the coup d’état that deposed President Manuel Zelaya last June 28.

The unicameral legislature has voted to name de facto president Roberto Micheletti congressman for life, thus granting him immunity forever from prosecution for crimes committed in connection with the coup. Micheletti was president of the legislature at the time that body named him to replace Zelaya in an act defenders of the coup insist was a constitutional presidential succession.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said the Honduran legislature has thus made Micheletti a “second Pinochet.” Augusto Pinochet, the bloody dictator who ruled Chile after the coup of 1973, had himself declared “senator for life” in 1989.

The legislature left consideration of the question of a general amnesty for actions taken in relation to the coup to the incoming government, thus avoiding the question of legal action against Zelaya for his alleged crimes, which the golpistas claim as justification for deposing him.

Meanwhile, the Honduran National Association of Industrialists held a private ceremony recently at the home of wealthy businessman Adolfo Facussé to honor Micheletti as a “true patriot” and “the first hero of Honduras in the 21st century.” As he accepted the plaque the group presented him, Micheletti told the audience, which included General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez and other military commanders, that he had never doubted he had the support of the armed forces and the police but “most importantly, God was with us.”

Vásquez Velásquez, head of the joint chiefs of staff, led the group of soldiers that abducted Zelaya on June 28 and delivered him to the airplane that flew him to Costa Rica. And Adolfo Facussé is widely thought to have instigated the coup and to have helped finance it. He and other members of the Honduran oligarchy are reported to have distributed sizeable cash payments to military commanders and other government officials immediately before Zelaya was kidnapped.

The legislature has further guaranteed Micheletti’s safety by providing personal body guards from the armed forces or the national police or, if government personnel become unavailable, from private security firms, for the rest of his life. Micheletti’s family will also have body guards. Some 50 other members of the golpista government will be given similar protection, including the attorney general, the six top commanding officers of the armed forces, 17 ministers of the Micheletti regime and their 17 vice-ministers, and the president of the supreme court, the body that provided the legal pretext for the coup.

Despite pressure from inside Honduras and outside the country, Micheletti has refused to relinquish office until January 27, when the legitimate president’s term officially ends and President-elect Porfirio Lobo takes office. In the meantime, Manuel Zelaya, the constitutionally elected president, remains in the Brazilian embassy, where he has been in refuge since entering the country secretly last September. Zelaya has rejected offers of political asylum, insisting he be treated as the legitimate head of the government.

The United States, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama and Peru are the only countries in the world so far to pledge to recognize the Lobo presidency as legitimate.

In San Pedro Sula, the country’s second largest city, a new street leading to a branch of the National Autonomous University has been named Roberto Micheletti Boulevard.

In other actions, the legislature has voted to withdraw the country from the Alternativa Bolivariana de las Américas (ALBA – The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas), proponents of the move arguing that it violates the principles of self-determination and non-intervention. Honduras’s membership in the regional affiliation was proposed by Zelaya and was initially approved by the legislature, including then legislative president Roberto Micheletti, but was attacked by conservatives adamantly opposed to the leftist governments of Latin America making up ALBA and particularly to the Venezuelan government and President Hugo Chávez, bête noire of the Honduran right. Membership in ALBA was one of the factors that brought about the coup.

Tiempo, the only mainstream newspaper in the country opposed to the golpista government, says withdrawal from ALBA will cost the country 100 million dollars in bonds purchased by Venezuela from the Honduran National Bank of Agricultural Development, 100 tractors, money to teach literacy, technical support for development of a government television channel, scholarships for medical training and funds to establish enterprises to produce generic drug.

And the minimum wage for Honduran workers, another sore point for the right, appears likely to remain at the level established in January 2009 when a 60 percent increase sponsored by Zelaya took effect, at 5,500 lempiras a month, about 290 U.S. dollars, for urban workers, and 4,055 lempiras, or $215.00 , for rural workers. After negotiations between union leaders and business owners broke down last week, the final decision will be left to the incoming president, Porfirio Lobo, who is more likely to decree a reduction than an increase. The unions had initially proposed a 30 percent increase.

[San Antonio native David Holmes Morris is an army veteran, a language major, a retired printer, a sometime journalist, and a gay liberationist.]

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