Ozarkers think of themselves as the real people, the salt of the earth, practical, not putting on airs, skeptical but tolerant, willing to help those in need. Our first impulse in meeting someone new is to figure out whether that person is from around here. My guess is that these characteristics are a universal part of human nature in which the question “friend or foe?” is the first issue at the first encounter.
If our first impulse is to stand our own ground, why should we be interested or concerned about what happens in one of the many countries of Central America, especially one as poor as Honduras, whose military just removed the president and sent him into exile in Costa Rica?
Honduras has been an independent republic for as long as Missouri has been a state (since 1821). Honduras is about the size of Tennessee, with a long northern coastline on the Caribbean and a small Pacific coast on the Gulf of Fonseca in the south. The population of Honduras is just under 8 million (like Missouri, Iowa and Arkansas combined), with a per capita annual income of about $4,400 (compared to around $20,000 in the Ozarks).
I don’t have a good feel for Honduran politics, so I’ll let Max Carranza tell his version (shortened by me) of recent events:
Yesterday was a historical day in my country. Honduras will no longer be the same. President Manuel Zelaya Rosales was arrested and taken from his house in the middle of the night by over 100 military men and was forced out of the country and sent to exile in Costa Rica. Many of his cabinet members are either in jail or captive in military bases.
Let me attempt to explain the circumstances that led to the coup. Zelaya was elected three and half years ago and appeared to have, at least on paper, a respectable agenda. Over the years it became clear that his agenda, “a crusade to fight for the poor,” was nothing but a mockery of the 70% of our Honduran brothers and sisters who live in poverty. He became best friends with Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro (Cuba), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua) and Evo Morales (Bolivia). These men, so called left-wing leaders, are a disgrace to the true meaning of the political left and use their populist agendas to promote themselves and keep control of the government for years. They claim to fight for the people and use shallow rhetoric to enrich themselves and change their constitutions to be endlessly reelected for generations to come. They are, ironically, the mirror replica of the horrendous right-wing leaders that use their power and military force to suppress the will of the people during most of the last century.
So in an attempt to stay in power, Zelaya called a referendum to establish a constitutional assembly that would rewrite the constitution. The act was declared illegal by the Supreme Court as only Congress can call for a constitutional assembly. Congress and the Attorney General agreed with the court. Social, religious and business leaders feared he wanted to change the constitution to allow reelection and continue in power. His followers were nothing more than paid activists who were trying to make a living from protesting. Even though the courts and every other branch of government had declared the referendum unconstitutional, he vowed to move forward.
Peaceful protests gathering thousands occurred across the country in defense of democracy and our constitution. Zelaya ignored them. The military refused to support the referendum as it could not obey an illegal order, so Zelaya fired the top ranking military leaders. The Supreme Court reinstated them because they were fired without cause. As tensions escalated, the Supreme Court ordered the military to arrest Zelaya the day of the referendum because he was carrying out an illegal action that violated the constitution and threatened democracy .
So now Obama, Hillary Clinton, the American Ambassador in Honduras, the European Union, the Organization of American States and many nations have condemned the actions that took place that glorious day of June 28th. They claim constitutional order needs to be reestablished and Zelaya must be reinstated. They demand that the man who had broken our own constitution and many other laws be reinstated to save democracy. They ask that the man who has no respect for our democracy and our government institutions have his position back for the good of the nation? Obama can be a great president of the US and be a scholar in American constitutional law, but he knows nothing about Honduran law to comment on the legality of the events.
These leaders do not comprehend our country. They do not see poverty day in and day out. They have not been around to hear what this disgraceful “leader” has been doing for the past three and half years. He has ruled the country based on a personal agenda that is not in sync with national interest. Crimes rates are through the roof, drug trafficking has escalated, poverty is on the rise, thousands are unemployed, education is lacking and the list of problems seems unending. Instead of focusing on national threats, he is worried about befriending Chavez and changing the constitution to continue in power.
I have never been as proud of my country. The military did not throw the president out, they simply followed a Court Order. Congress, in its constitutionally-given power, unanimously voted to remove him from office and appointed his successor based on the lawful chain of succession. Our democratic institutions have never adhered so closely to the law as they did last Sunday. Finally our leaders grew enough balls to respect our own laws and said: “No more, not this time.”
This is not a military takeover as the world media is trying to portray it. Believe me, I have never been a fan of military involvement in my country, but I have gained a deep respect for them.
It was a turning point in which hopefully we will show the world that maybe a small eight million people third world country can solve its own political problems and they must respect our will. How will it all unfold? Nobody knows. What I do know is that Hondurans woke up full of hope this morning.
Max Carranza is a thoughtful young man who lives in Little Rock. His parents live in Honduras, where they are physicians. In a few weeks, Max will marry my niece, and we’re very proud to have him in the Styron family.
Every major political and economic development affects families. The downturn in the United States economy has been especially hard on Central America, where the money earned by their nationals working in the United States and sent home (called “remittances”) provides as much as 25% of the money in circulation in those countries. With the remittances waning due to reduced earnings and unemployment in the United States, the vise of poverty in poor countries of Central America tightens and the economic elites of those countries who own the businesses that profit from the remittances also face sharply reduced earnings. Just as within a family, tempers fray when money is short.
In times of crisis, leaders such as Chavez and Zelaya seek to extend their terms of office by asking for a constitutional amendment (didn’t FDR do the same thing?). Many Central American cities, especially Mexican cities along the U. S. border, are wracked by murder and kidnappings. Without the remittances from legitimate labor in the U. S., the economic significance of the drug trade grows, fueled by constant demand for the products in the U. S. The organizations in the drug business wage war against one another and against law enforcement agencies, some of which are funded by the U. S.
Max reacts to the official statements of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton by taking them at face value as supporting Zelaya. My sense is that the official statements have little to do with actual U. S. policy, given the long manipulative and sometimes covert role of the U. S. government in internal affairs in Venezuela, Panama, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Perhaps Zelaya is a U. S. puppet who strayed from his script. The military coup may have been supported or encouraged by the State Department, while the official U. S. position was to condemn the coup. Somebody knows, but not me.
In the Ozarks, Central Americans from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Belize, Guatemala and Mexico have filled thousands of jobs in the poultry, construction and hospitality industries. Sadly, Ozarkers have been consumers of illegal drugs that are grown, manufactured or processed in these countries. Like it or not, the Ozarks economy and the economies of the countries of Central America are closely linked, and what happens there or here doesn’t stay.
Neither Honduras or the Ozarks is an economic island. Our trade–legal and illegal–is a two-way street. Where there is trade, families form links. Max came to the Ozarks to attend the University of Central Arkansas and met my niece. I’m glad he did. One result is that my family will always be interested in Honduras. Because we know Max, when we meet another Honduran, we’ll think that that person is likely to be a friend.
Max and Mal’s connection is a specific, personal, and visible expression of the far reaching, general connections between Ozarkers–and all U.S. citizens–with the rest of the Americas and the world. It seems to me that the radical anti-immigrant rhetoric that is so common in the U.S. neglects to fully consider how deep, long-standing, and complex our connections are with the peoples of Mexico, Central and South America.
Max’s comments provide helpful perspective into Honduran politics. I hope both of you will continue to comment as the situation unfolds. It would help me monitor the news with a more balanced skepticism, remembering never to take news reports, or U.S. pronouncements, at face value
Thanks for reading and commenting.
It’s so nice to have a non-snarky comment from a brother. Others have been unprintable.
Harry, thanks for this report, it’s insightful and I’m glad to hear from Max who obviously has a more personal viewpoint than I did. When I first heard the news of the “coup” I thought of Mallory since I so recently had heard of her soon to be husband. I have watched the news reports and it’s very easy to form an opinion that is not always a clear, informed decision. So thanks for this first hand viewpoint. John, I also appreciated your comments about the radical anti-immigration front. It is those personal, specific and viable relationships that change us all. Of course I sometimes think my POV is viewed as that “nut case cousin” from CA. Good to see everyone, I truly enjoyed the reunion and reconnecting. Peace
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment on my post and on John’s remarks.
I don’t think anyone thinks of you as the nut case cousin from California. You do have a sister across the Bay.
The U.S. demand for drugs and the U.S.-financed drug wars in Latin America have terrible implications for the people of the United States and the people of Latin America. When we add in disputes over “free trade,” “fair trade,” fishing rights, loss of rain forest, and oil politics, we’ve got a real mess on our hands. I don’t see much progress or reason for optimism.
Harry, thanks for offering the reassurance that I have not been labeled the nut case from CA cousin.
Nancy knows me and accepts me so her opinion doesn’t count. Besides she likes me! I do appreciate your sharing your perspective and agree not much hope or real optimism.
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Though very persuasive and well written, I’m curious if Harry and/or Max could elaborate on the following issues:
– that fact that Zelaya’s referendum was non-binding and what legal/symbolic implications would exist if it had passed or been voted down
– why the Honduran Legislative and Judicial branches did not oust the president through non-military means (i.e. impeachment)
– the precedent this military act sets for future democratically elected administrations on either side of the political spectrum
You’ve posed some open-ended questions here about internal issues of Honduran politics. I certainly have no expertise, insights or even basic information. I’ll ask Max to explore them.
This blog is about the Ozarks and the connections of the Ozarks to the rest of the world, so it’s not a good forum for discussions of Honduran affairs.
In response to Jackson’s questions/comments (which Harry has attempted to clarify):
Zelaya’s referendum was non-binding. What legal or symbolic implications might exist if it had passed or been voted down (Harry’s comment: I think the implication of Jackson’s question is whether a “non-binding referendum” should be considered illegal and justifying an ouster, when it is simply a poll and a rather ordinary political maneuver.)
Max’s Response: The reality is that Zelaya’s referendum was illegal. Only Congress has the authority to call for any time of referendums. It is unclear why, but most activists in favor of the referendum have confessed to being paid to protest for it. Similar “non-binding” referendums have taken place in other Latin American countries and have then been interpreted as the will of the people. His illegal non-binding referendum was a façade for his continuation in power. Not only was the act illegal, but he had spent an estimated $20 million promoting it. Needless to say that $20 million in Honduras goes a very long way.
Why didn’t the Honduran Legislative and Judicial branches oust the president through non-military means (i.e., impeachment)?
Response: There is currently no impeachment process in Honduras. Ironically we had just finished several decades of military coups when the constitution was written and people were afraid to include an impeachment process in any type of law.
Does the military involvement in the removal of the President threaten future democratically elected administrations on either side of the political spectrum?
Response: Since the military acted on an order from the Supreme Court, most Hondurans believe that there is little risk for the military to perform such acts on its own. For the first time people have begun to respect the military because they feel they [the military leaders] are being obedient to the laws of the nation.
I want to thank you for writing this for the world to see. Honduras is a poor, but extremely proud and brave country. We have stood up against communism! Honduras will not become a subsidary to Hugo Chavez’s, and/or The Castro’s military dictatorships.
Max is a soldier of his country. His fighting the good fight. Our family is delighted to join the Styron clan in one big extended family.
Blessings for all from Honduras
These questions were from July, but my parents hail from the Ozarks foothills in South-Central Missouri and my wife and (adult) stepkids are from Honduras:
>>Though very persuasive and well written, I’m curious if Harry and/or Max could elaborate on the following issues:>>- that fact that Zelaya’s referendum was non-binding and what legal/symbolic implications would exist if it had passed or been voted down
Hondurans knew from experience that Zelaya’s “non-binding” language was a farce. His own followers took it seriously. On June 26, 2009, two days before the famous events of June 28, he published an official change to the text of the illegal unconstitutional referendum. The “non-binding” language was gone. The reference to November elections was gone. According to their twisted doublethink, the language left him free to send his mob to dissolve the Congress that very day. That was his plan.
>>- why the Honduran Legislative and Judicial branches did not oust the president through non-military means (i.e. impeachment)
…The real coup plotter was Zelaya, who lost the presidency –actually, he deposed himself– according to the Honduran constitution, not the US constitution. The Honduran version does not have a prescribed impeachment formula like the US does, but it designates Congress as having the authority to “interpret the constitution” and to the Supreme Court the authority to adjudicate cases involving its application.
Both the Congress (125-3) and the Supreme Court (15-0) have declared he was unfit for the presidency and that Micheletti as the constitutionally prescribed successor to the presidency.
OAS secretary general Inzulsa, who began his career in the declared Communist regime of Allende in Chile, and Miguel d’Escoto, the Sandinista president of the UN General Assembly, being foreigners in Honduras, are automatically disqualified to have a say about what is constitutional in Honduras.
Under Honduran constitutional law, Obama is also disqualified to make pronouncements to Honduras about what is legal in Honduras.
>>- the precedent this military act sets for future democratically elected administrations on either side of the political spectrum
“Democratically elected presidents” who try to become dictators for life should be rapidly deposed by their constitutionally authorized entities, just like Honduras. Nixon was ousted, Blogovich was ousted, and Governor Gray in California was ousted, and nobody cried foul.
The “military act” was a an act of obedience to duly authorized –>civilian<– constitutional authority. They were ordered to arrest Mel Zelaya for his long series of crimes of corruption, theft, treason, and more, shortly accumulated to more than 18 specific charges.
Hondurans have given hope to freedom-loving peoples in Latin America. Nicaraguans have been emboldened to protect their freedoms from Ortega, who is now throwing his own coup there. Venezuelans all over the Internet have expressed gratitude to Honduras for stopping Chavez.
Hitler told his henchmen that if they told a lie often enough, loud enough, and long enough, people would believe it. Hondurans now know they cannot trust reports in the mainstream press.
Thanks for taking the time to comment. As I’ve stated, I don’t have any expertise with Honduran law and politics and must defer to those who do.
You do a good job arguing the anti-Zelaya case using rhetorical tools that are common in partisan political language.
For example, you make statements of fact that are really matters of degree and of opinion: “Hondurans knew from experience” “According to their twisted doublethink” “actually, he deposed himself” “hope to freedom-loving peoples”
You flipflop on the principle that the laws or experiences of the United States do not apply and mix apples and oranges. Compare “Obama is also disqualified to make pronouncements to Honduras about what is legal in Honduras” with “Nixon was ousted, Blogovich was ousted, and Governor Gray [Davis] was ousted and nobody cried foul.” Nixon, Blagovich and Davis did not try to become dictators for life. Nixon resigned in the face of impeachment after having been caught abusing presidential power. Blogovich attempted to sell an Illinois Senate seat and was removed by the Illinois Senate after a political impeachment trial. Gray Davis was removed by the California voters in a recall process when his administration’s inability to govern the perhaps ungovernable state of California became apparent. The Honduran constitution does not have similar mechanisms as impeachment and recall.
Finally, you bring up Hitler’s propagandizing, after you use several propaganda techniques in your own rhetoric.
I’ll leave it for the people of Honduras to choose their leader and interpret their constitution. It looks to me that Zelaya got elected with broad support, grew addicted to power, then took as sharp turn to the left when his time in office was running out, portraying himself as a populist in order to circumvent the constitution. I don’t doubt that he’s a scoundrel. I hope that Honduras is in a position to have free and fair elections. With a large segment of the Honduran population living in poverty, populist appeals will always find support.