Pepe's new pajamas, and the Liberal-Resistance rift
By Adrienne Pine
Foreign Minister Mario Canahuati, with Clinton's strongarm assistance, is maneuvering for OAS recognition, arguing that Lobo has complied with all necessary conditions to get Honduras back on the path to legitimate institutionality.
To strengthen their case following international indignation over the political firing of judges critical of the coup, there is a project right now in Congress to vote to fire the golpista judges who fired the resistencia judges (since the former refused to reinstate the latter under pressure), and likely to replace golpista coup cheerleader Human Rights Commissioner "balas de goma" Ramon Custodio. This would be an easy sacrifice for Congress, which would just replace them all with equally right-wing judges and other puppets. But those supporting the current regime would be able to say that, by firing all the people in the institution, they protected the sanctity of said institution. Sort of as if justice was the court building, not a process of, well, justice, carried out by, you know, people.
All this talk of progress and strengthened institutions is not helped, it would seem, by Lobo's repeated (and entirely credible) public accusations that certain actors are plotting a coup against him. This was the topic of non-stop discussion on the radio this morning (I had to turn it off to write this). The word is, like the 2009 coup, Lobo's forced ouster would be an internal party affair, with National elites getting the military to throw him out and with the most extreme of the golpista Liberals tacitly or openly supporting it. So, to make the imaginary venn diagram (work with me) of golpistas, let's say you draw a circle around all the people who supported the coup against democratically-elected president Zelaya...[and then Adrienne wasted 2 and a half hours trying to figure out how to graph a simplified caricature of the social actors in the resistance]...anti-Zelaya golpistas are made up of a majority of Nationalist party loyalists, and a much more fervent, but smaller group of Liberal party loyalists, along with a smaller number of non-Party-affiliateds, and smaller party members. La resistencia, that amorphous group, is similarly comprised of a people with a wide variety of previous and current party affiliations, and a much larger group of unaffiliateds—divided among people previously organized within social movements and those who were unorganized. A "coup" against Pepe would be a fascinating phenomenom. As Enrique commented this morning, "Sería divertido que le hicieran golpe a Pepe Lobo. Scary, but funny." Since the resistance's official position vis-a-vis Lobo is non-recognition, to many Pepe's ouster would not be seen as a coup, but rather, as they say here, a defenestración. That's not to say that most within the resistance would support it. Here's what Pepe's ouster would mean: full military takeover followed by an almost-immediate constitutional assembly that would exclude any real citizen participation (similar to what Pepe has been advocating, but more brutal and extreme). A few resistance members would welcome Pepe's ouster as hastening the total demise and completely destroying the fragile and false legitimacy of Honduran state institutions. But I'd venture to say that most, while not recognizing Lobo as being democratically elected and not supporting him, are more afraid of the even more violent military control of the country that would result. And as I mentioned above, a large proportion of Nationalists would back Lobo's ouster (since he's ineffective, has no mandate, and is not as extreme as they'd like him to be), and a smaller proportion of golpista Liberals would as well. The Liberals in resistance are the ones with the most to lose, because Lobo's weakness and fragile legitimacy is their ticket to winning the next elections and regaining power, so ironically, they are the ones defending the other party's president.
Another key element in the effort of shared by the remaining Lobo-backing golpistas and Liberals in Resistance to gain recognition of the Honduran State is making the claim that Zelaya could return if he wanted to. Last week, after if became clear that despite Lobo's attempts to secure Mel's return to placate the "international community," there was no way he could protect Mel from the predatory litigation of the anti-Lobo golpista judges, Lobo's camp started accusing Zelaya of not really wanting to come back.
The Zelaya strategy is also a central part of the State Department and Lobo administration's attempt to resuscitate the Liberal Party as part of the tired old "government of reconciliation" tact. By focusing on the well-loved caudillofigure, Liberal Party leaders who did not openly support the coup are hoping to bring along a large-enough sector of the resistance's base to succeed in the next elections. And the Liberal Party no longer has a base, in part because it can no longer lay claim with even marginal credibility to any coherent set of principles, and in part because it never represented the interests of the majority of Hondurans, and as such never actually had a base in the first place. Zelaya had built himself a base, and many of those who conformed it are loyal to him, but that love hasn't rubbed off onto anti-coup Liberal functionaries (who mock Mel in private just as much as golpista ideologues). The social movement groups are organized, and know how to mobilize people. But the Liberals know the dirty tricks of Party politics within a deeply ingrained culture of two-party representative "democracy." The tactic, of claiming Zelaya to retake power, was central in the maneuvering a month ago of Liberal resistance leaders to take leading roles in determining the direction of the declaración ciudadana. It was because, in smaller fora and avoiding the larger, more democratic assembly process, they managed to procure a disproportionate voice, that the declaración was changed to include the demand for Zelaya and Tamayo's return (but not that of the over-100 other political exiles from the coup), and the assertion that Zelaya was the “intérprete (único) del pueblo hondureño”—the only one who can speak for the Honduran people. (by the way, check out this insightful related blog post). Regardless of how great countless Hondurans might think Mel to be, that one sentence profoundly altered the declaración initiative. The initiative itself was not the result of a particularly democratic process, but it has nonetheless been embraced by a very large sector of the movement in both its iterations. But the change is profound, and is representative of the biggest difference between the movement resistance and Liberal resistance: horizontalism (at least in theory) vs. hierarchy. Or as they put it here,democracia vs. caudillismo.
The Liberals have called for a meeting this Saturday, to be held in Siguatepeque, to make the argument that the resistance should incorporate itself into the Liberal Party. It will be a fascinating showdown.
Meanwhile, the rumor circulating about Fito Facusse's son's kidnapping is that it was an autosecuestro—a self-kidnapping so the son could extort money from his father. I have no idea if there's any truth to the accusation, but it wouldn't be the first time in Honduras. And after all, the kid was driving a Camry. And Micheletti's murderous drunk driving son was being debated in Congress, members asking why the hell the man was driving a presidential vehicle to go get drunk...but in providing Micheletti and numerous others Pinochet-esque "senator for life" positions (vitalicio) Congress did indeed provide taxpayer money for protection and vehicles for family members, though presumably not for family members to kill poor security guards by ramming into pharmacies and then flee the scene with numerous witnesses. Still, very little news about him has come out other than on Cholusat and resistance radio channels.