a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Honduran poll — majority support for Zelaya, constitutional reform

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 23rd October 2009

A poll just released by the experienced survey research firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner puts the lie to a number of claims about Honduran public opinion, confirming that Zelaya remains more popular than de facto Honduran leader Roberto Micheletti.  Holding an assembly to reform the Constitution was the most widely favored way to “deal with the current political crisis.” (Suggestions by Zelaya that a post-election assembly explore constitutional reform triggered the coup and Zelaya’s temporary exile.)  From the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner press release:

Nearly four months after Honduran President Mel Zelaya was forced from office, he retains considerable public support, according to a new survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.

  • By a large 22-point margin (60 to 38 percent), the Honduran public disapproves of the removal on June 28 of Zelaya as president.
  • Two-thirds approve of Zelaya’s performance as president. Nineteen percent rated his performance as “excellent” and another 48 percent as “good.”

The national survey, which involved face-to-face interviews with 621 randomly selected Hondurans from October 9-13, found that Zelaya is considerably more popular than Roberto Micheletti, who has been serving as de facto president. By a 2-1 margin (57 to 28 percent), Hondurans have a negative personal opinion of Micheletti. And a slight majority gives Micheletti’s tenure as president negative marks.

The eight page “Frequency Questionnaire” (.PDF) shows that Hondurans favor holding an assembly to reform the Honduran constitution by 54 to 43 percent — compared to 72 to 27 percent disapproval of keeping Micheletti as president.  Similarly, a 55 to 43 percent majority favored amending the constitution to allow for re-election of presidents.  However, respondents were split 49 to 50 percent on Mel Zelaya’s resumption as president with full powers.  Interestingly — given that Zelaya is viewed by many on the right as a stalking horse for Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez — only 10 percent of a respondent split sample reported “warm” feelings towards Chavez, versus 39 percent towards Barack Obama.

The face to face interview survey sampled 621 respondents between October 9 and 13.  Judging by questions about age, educational attainment, and political views, the respondent sample was youthful and slightly pro-Zelaya in the 2005 election.

The poll is a useful supplement to an excellent Al Jazeera “Fault Lines” report on Honduras by Avi Lewis.  Both halves of the 24 minute report are embedded below.  Lewis concludes pessimistically,

“Through the clouds of tear gas and political spin, some clarity is emerging from this long crisis. Even with Zelaya back in the presidential palace, his time would be brief, his power minimal. Even with the de facto government gone, the coup successfully prevented any great challenge to the established order. […] Whatever story the world hears about elections and the transition back to democracy in Honduras, there will continue to be struggle, resistance, and loss. And there will still be people here who are living in fear.”

Perhaps the poll will help restore some balance in coverage and understanding of the Honduran struggle.

(Via Nell Lancaster and Honduras Oye!)

UPDATE, 10/23: Nell reminds me that there was a Honduran poll in late August (noted by her and republished by Al Giordano earlier this month) done by the Honduran firm COIMER & OP, with a larger sample (about 1500 people) and broadly similar results.

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Two little countries, one little prize

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 10th October 2009

I guess it’s good to see that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can really get busy when America’s values and interests are on the line.  Mark Landler and Sebnem Arsu of the New York Times report from Zurich (“Turkey and Armenia, After Hitch, Normalize Ties“):

Sitting in the back of a black BMW sedan at a hilltop hotel here, aides thrusting papers at her, Mrs. Clinton worked two cellphones at once as she tried to resolve differences between the Armenian foreign minister, Eduard Nalbandian, and his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu.

Too bad all that drama was on behalf of a deeply flawed pact between Turkey and Armenia.  While it’s hailed as a breakthrough, it seems to me the reality is that an exhausted Armenia surrendered too much in return for normalized relations between the two countries.  The difficulty, as ever, was in Turkey’s ongoing campaign to obfuscate and deny its responsibility for the Armenian Genocide of 1915-18.

It’s not a great sign that the difficulty Clinton solved rested on Armenian objections to Turkish post-signing statements, nor that the solution she brokered was for the Turkish delegation not to say anything.  The text of the protocols includes language bitterly denounced by many (but not all) Armenian diaspora organizations — specifically, text appearing to pledge Armenia to not taking an active role in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, and text calling for the two countries to

Implement a dialogue on the historical dimension with the aim to restore mutual confidence between the two nations, including an impartial and scientific examination of the historical records and archives to define existing problems and formulate recommendations…

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has posted an annotated copy of the protocol, and comments that this

…secure[s] Armenia’s tacit support for [Turkey’s] longstanding aim of downgrading the Armenian Genocide from a matter of settled history […] At the same time that Turkey is seeking to gain credit internationally by appearing open to dialogue, its government is enforcing Article 301 and other laws criminalizing even the discussion of the genocide.

Turkey is reportedly open to ‘accepting the verdict’ of such a historical commission — but my guess is that commission will deadlock, with Armenian and many outside historians saying one thing, Turkish ones (though there are honorable exceptions) saying another, and Turkish politicians saying “see? No one can agree.”

The Washington Post reports that Secretary Clinton was in “frequent contact with the two sides in recent weeks“, and President Obama called Armenian president Sarkissian to salute him in advance for his “leadership” in accepting the deal.  While some news reports point to regional and U.S. interest in building an anti-Russian alliance in the Caucasus, others cite simpler, more profitable reasons.  The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall:

International pressure on Turkey and Armenia not to let the chance of a rapprochement slip is intense. Both are vital links in the chain of actual or planned western oil and gas pipelines stretching from central Asia to Europe.

Set that against a mere 1.5 million dead in the first modern genocide, and I suppose it was always clear what Clinton’s BMW drama and Obama’s Oval Office phone calls were going to be about — never mind Obama’s own campaign promise to have the U.S. call the Armenian Genocide by name.

The Obama administration has been displaying no such sense of urgency in Latin America’s first coup in years — Roberto Micheletti and his clique’s ousting of rightful Honduran president Manuel Zelaya.  As is well known, Zelaya recently ‘infiltrated’ his own country after his forcible exile, seeking asylum and support in the Brazilian embassy.

Despite strong support from the OAS (Organization of American States) for Zelaya, and even official acknowledgment by the U.S. State Department  that a coup took place, the Obama administration has not taken further concrete steps to put pressure on the Micheletti coup regime — including, at minimum, Secretary of State Clinton’s active efforts to restore an elected leader of an OAS member country to power.

Meanwhile, in Honduras, the coup leaders continue to repress their opposition (often lethally),  have set and lifted curfews, and have claimed the right to curtail freedom of speech to secure their hold on power, and carried out or condoned attacks on independent radio stations.  Now, the standoff at the Brazilian embassy is getting more tense.  Adrienne Pine, who has been monitoring the Honduran media, reports:

Platforms with highly armed sharpshooters installed outside the embassy, using telescopic and infrared targeting systems, just meters away from the windows of the building where the president, his family, and many others are held hostage by the regime.

(Photos are at the link.)  You’d think that would be worth a flurry of cell phone calls.

A Nobel foreign policy?
After the same initial “for what?” reaction everyone else had, I figured that despite my many reservations about Obama, awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize was a decent strategic choice by the Nobel committee.  As the Nobel committee’s press release put it,

The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

I can agree about the nuclear weapons efforts, where Obama has restored nuclear nonproliferation and arms reduction to prominence in U.S. and world foreign policy. That’s important enough that giving him a prize in advance may actually make some sense — maybe this way he’ll stick with this issue the way he sometimes doesn’t with others.  (For more on this, see especially nonproliferation experts Joe Cirincione of Ploughshares, and William Hartung of the New America Foundation.)

Much of the rest of the statement rings hollow, though — especially that last sentence.  But I can fix it with just two words: “when convenient.”

UPDATE, 10/10: ANCA is running a “Tell the President: Genocide Shouldn’t Pay” email protest campaign against US support for the Turkey-Armenia protocol.  From the message:

The United States should address genocide as a moral imperative, not as a geo-political commodity to be traded or sold to the highest bidder. Sadly, however, that is exactly what has happened. Turkey enlisted the powerful, sustained, and very likely decisive support of our government in its shameless but nonetheless successful effort to compel Armenia into acceptance of a set of humiliating and dangerous concessions.

UPDATE, 10/11: See also “Stop The Protocols” website, created by Armenian American student groups.
UPDATE, 10/14: Naturally, the Washington Post editorializes in favor of the protocols.  Nice line: “The genocide issue — and the refusal of some in the American Armenian community to compromise on it — still threatens to undo the deal.” How unreasonable of “some” in the American Armenian community! One hopes the Post would never urge Jewish groups to compromise on recognition of the Holocaust, even if some groups had the so-called “common sense” to acquiesce to a process even the Post acknowledged could “filibuster” the issue.

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Call 202-647-4000 for Honduras and democracy

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 23rd September 2009

That’s the number for the State Department. The photo below and the video to the right show why: the Micheletti coup regime in Honduras is lashing out at demonstrators welcoming ousted president Manuel Zelaya, who returned secretly to Honduras yesterday and is now at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa.

Nell Lancaster (“A Lovely Promise”) on what to say:

Demand that the U.S. government publicly recognize and condemn the coup regime’s abuses against peaceful political expression, media, and diplomatic integrity, and that stronger actions be taken to sanction the coup participants.

Honduran police on the attack.
Originally uploaded by HablaHonduras; click through
for more up-to-date photos from Honduras.

I’ll add that the Obama administration should have taken those measures months ago. The costs of that inaction are mounting: there are reports of scores of injuries, and even of police surrounding hospitals in efforts to arrest the injured seeking treatment there.  Nell’s post is a node for finding some of the best reporting and analysis on Honduras, such as…

Laura Carlsen (“Americas MexicoBlog”):

By showing up without violent confrontations at the Brazilian Embassy before thousands of cheering supporters, Zelaya plays his strongest cards. As most eyes were on the Obama administration—and with good reason given its power in affecting economic and political sanctions—Brazil has been a low-profile but high-impact actor in the drama. Its power as a regional leader carries clout not only with other nations throughout Latin American but also with the United States, which cannot risk strained relations with the South American giant.

Al Giordano (“The Field”), reporting from Honduras:

The military curfew has no practical reason. It will not bring the expulsion, anew, of Zelaya from national territory. It will not hasten his capture by the regime. And it does not make the regime any more legitimate. To the contrary, it demonstrates, again, its repressive, anti-democratic and usurper character. It is a desperate act meant to punish the entire Honduran people for, after 86 days, not “getting with the program” and backing the coup. It is a tantrum by the man-child Micheletti to lash out and insist, “I’m in charge, here,” but it only serves to underscore, again, that he is not in control of the country or its people.

The Honduran civil resistance to the Micheletti coup has been an inspiration and a model for us all. We need to do our part to help them out, even if our government won’t.

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Vigil for peace in Honduras

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 11th August 2009

Nell points to this notice at Adrienne Pine’s blog:

Hondurans for Democracy, School of the Americas Watch (SOAW), CODE PINK and several human rights organizations and groups opposed to the military-led coup of June 28, 2009, will hold a VIGIL FOR PEACE IN HONDURAS. The vigil is being held in light of the brutal acts of violence perpetrated by the de facto regime in Honduras such as assassinations of protesters/critics, disappearances, kidnappings, and multiple violations of human rights.

What: Vigil for Peace in Honduras
Where:Reflecting pool on west side of the US Capitol Building
Time: 8:30 – 10:30 PM
Date: Tuesday, August 11, 2009

= = =

For the occasion, more stirring words from President Barack Obama, this time from his June 4 speech in Cairo:

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

…there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

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The U.S. should oppose the coup regime in Honduras

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 2nd August 2009

I just forwarded this appeal, posted here at “Just Foreign Policy” (JFP), to my Congressman. Please join me:

I urge you to sign the letter being circulated by Rep. Grijalva calling for more U.S. pressure on the coup regime in Honduras to stand down. Signers of the letter include Reps. McGovern, Conyers, and Serrano.

After three weeks of illegitimate rule, repression of opponents and stifling of the free press, the de facto regime in Honduras rejected the proposals of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias over the weekend of July 18 and 19. The elected Honduran President, Manuel Zelaya, accepted all seven conditions proposed by Arias to resolve the crisis and restore legitimacy, democracy and constitutional order in Honduras, and the coup regime has consistently stated they will not accept any solution that involves the return of the elected president to his office.

On July 22, the regime’s “Foreign Minister”  rejected Arias’ “final” proposal, re-affirming their position that any solution respecting international opinion as expressed by the OAS, the UN and the United States is “inconceivable, unacceptable.”

But the Honduran regime has not been content to run out the clock on President Zelaya’s mandate and obstruct his return. As documented in a report by the respected Honduran human rights NGO, COFADEH, and elsewhere, the regime has been intimidating and closing down media outlets opposing the coup, shooting journalists, opening fire on unarmed protesters, killing at least one, 19-year-old (WARNING: disturbing image) Isis Murillo, beating and jailing marchers and political leaders, and generally violating civil liberties.

This assault on human rights and on people and movements opposed to the coup cannot be allowed to continue without grave harm to the fabric of Honduran democracy, even if and when President Zelaya is restored.

In response to the worsening situation, I feel that President Obama should follow up on his comments rejecting the coup and denounce the repression carried out by this illegitimate regime. He can also take immediate action that will surely get the attention of the regime by freezing the US assets and visas of those connected to the coup. This suggestion, which was notably raised by the Los Angeles Times editorial board last week, seems to be sensible and appropriate as past actions have failed to have the intended effect, mediation efforts appear to have failed, and the human rights situation continues to worsen.

Please sign the letter being circulated by Rep. Grijalva calling for more U.S. pressure on the coup regime in Honduras.

(Links added; there has now been at least one more death at the hands of coup soldiers and/or “golpistas.”)  If you want to personalize the message, you might add a plug for co-sponsoring H.Res. 630, a resolution by Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA-10) condemning the coup.

I learned of the JFP appeal via Nell Lancaster (“A Lovely Promise”), which is where I’ve mainly been following the Honduras news — since the coup in late June, she’s been writing about little else (the link leads to the list of her posts on the topic), and it’s been a one-stop roundup, analysis, and education stop for me.  She links to plenty of other knowledgeable blogs and resources on the topic; for instance, it turns out Obama enthusiast Al Giordano is also a long time Central America hand, and is currently on the scene reporting via his blog. The Real News Network has also proven to be an excellent broadband Internet resource, with strong ongoing coverage of the coup and the tardy, confused U.S. response.
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