RE: Is Manuel Zelaya Playing Us All? Kalgoorlie Miner (Western Australia) by Gwynne Dyer
September 28, 2009
During the 1980s, I found your work on the nuclear arms race (which I saw on CBC) quite refreshing for its sanity. I see that in your latest book you take a reasonable position on global climate change. I believe you are an intelligent person with decent intentions. Hence, I was surprised by the article you just wrote about Honduras.
You are apparently concerned that Zelaya has orchestrated events in Honduras to make an illegal power grab by passing himself off as a "democratic martyr". You wrote that President Zeleya "started all this" with a "peculiar" initiative for a non-binding poll on "creating a constituent assembly to change the constitution and allow presidents a second term."
In fact, the question that would have been asked said absolutely nothing about a second presidential term. The question was
"Do you agree that in the general elections of November 2009 a fourth ballot box should be installed to decide whether to convene a National Constitutional Assembly that would approve a political Constitution?"
Even if the poll had been binding it would only have resulted in another question being asked at the same time that Zelaya's successor was elected in November. However, the poll was not binding. It could only have produced a widely known and irrefutable public record of how Hondurans felt about initiating constitutional reform. If Hondurans voted in favor, the poll would have generated pressure for reform.
The Supreme Court ruled that asking Hondurans a question about their own constitution was a crime – an unbelievably odious and anti-democratic ruling which I have yet to see denounced by anyone in the corporate press. If the existing constitution provides a legal basis for the ruling (something some legal scholars have dismissed) then that would only add to the arguments in favor of constitutional reform.
Why the hysterical reaction to an opinion poll? Why would Zelaya have proposed it?
Oscar Estrada, a leader of the movement that has resisted the Micheletti dictatorship, explained that there are divisions among the Honduran elite. The faction led by Zelaya has not been pleased with (among other things) how they have taken a back seat to the faction that has led the coup – a faction that is more than happy with the current constitution. It was drafted by a Constitutional Assembly that was elected and worked under the close supervision of the military.
You should ask yourself, Mr. Dyer, what the impoverished majority of Hondurans are enduring at the hands of the military if their elected president, a wealthy and well connected landowner, can be driven out of the country at gun point. Is it not obvious to you why some rich Hondurans, like Zelaya, might want fundamental change in the way their country is run – and have incentives unrelated to political ambition for wanting change? Cleary, not even rich people are guaranteed basic rights in Honduras. You need not assume that Zelaya (and other like minded rich people) are saints to see why they might share some common ground with the poor on the question of basic reform.
You cite opinion polls that say Zelaya's public support was only 25% some time before the coup. Ignoring the very dubious neutrality of pollsters in Honduras, the coup leaders understood that lack of support for Zelaya is not the same thing as lack of support for constitutional reform. How else do you explain the violent reaction to the proposed opinion poll? Why didn't they allow the question to be asked so that the public could answer it with a massive boycott or a resounding "no!"?
A credible answer is not hard to see. Hondurans have not exactly prospered under the constitutional order of the last 25 years. They remain the second poorest people (after Haitians) in the Western Hemisphere. The military (as the June 28 coup graphically reveals) has not been tamed under the existing constitution - not surprising given the role it played in drafting it. There is good reason to believe that the public may have backed constitutional reform. In fact, perhaps more than Zelaya's return to office, constitutional reform is now the rallying cry of the resistance to the coup.
You speculate that Zelaya is hoping for a bloodbath which will rally the public to his side. Are you aware that regime imposed a nationwide curfew in response to Zelaya's return? The regime understands that the public has rallied against it for months and the regime has responded by placing the public under house arrest. Moreover, the blood of protestors has already been spilled (read the reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Inter American Commission on Human rights), but not enough to crack the indifference of the corporate press which, incidently, can do a great deal to prevent a bloodbath by giving Hondurans appropriate attention and by doing honest reporting.
Rather than applaud the courage of people who have taken to the streets at significant personal risk, your speculation implies that they are unwitting pawns in Zelaya's "game" to get another term. Can you really see nothing more fundamental at stake - for Zelaya and everyone else in Honduras - than a second presidential term?
Even if you detested the elected government in the country in which you live, would you not take to the streets to defy the military if it ousted the government in a coup? If you weren't willing to protest, would you not applaud the people who did – or would you disparage them as dupes? Would you advise people to just stay at home and wait for the dictatorship to supervise elections? Would you cast aspersions on deposed government officials for returning to their country to face some of the risks that opponents of the dictatorship are facing on the streets?
Have you wondered what "game" the US is playing in Honduras? Why did it wait months before doing basic things like preventing de facto government officials from entering the US at will? Michelettis's daughter, a de facto government official, was just deported days ago. Why has the US not frozen the billions of dollars in assets the dictatorship and its backers have in the US? Why has Obama refused to meet with Zelaya? Why, in contrast to almost every other leader in the Americas, did Obama fail to mention Honduras in his recent address to the UN? Why would Hilary Clinton refer to the curfew the regime imposed as if it were a legitimate measure to take in response to Zelaya's return? Does it sound any alarm bells for you that her former campaign manager, Lanny Davis, is a paid propagandist for a Honduran business group that staunchly backs the dictatorship? 
Independent journalists like Al Giodano of Narco News and Graham Russell of Rights Action have spent months in Honduras interviewing the people involved in resisting the coup. They have uncovered an inspiring movement that is fighting for much more than the restoration of Zelaya – though that is obviously important. I strongly suggest you take a close and open minded look at the material they have produced. Hopefully, after doing so, you will no longer be "played" by Lanny Davis and the incredibly backward faction of the Honduran oligarchy that employs him.
 see June 29 entry http://hondurascoup2009.blogspot.com/
see also IPS;"Honduras: Coup d'Etat - What's In a Name?" by Diana Cariboni
Estarda's comments begin about two minutes into the video
See also debate with Lanny Davis on Democracy Now
See this Mark Weisbrot article.
Weisbrot sums it up well
"Obama does not want to send the "wrong" signal to the dictatorship, ie that the lip service that he has paid to Zelaya's restoration should be taken seriously."
" Hillary Clinton described the first phase of this new repression Monday night in a press conference: "I think that the government imposed a curfew, we just learned, to try to get people off the streets so that there couldn't be unforeseen developments."
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