Zelaya Wins, Honduras Loses (Updated Nov. 4)
Earlier, it had appeared that 47 congressmen will vote no (40 Liberal, 1 UD, 2 PINU, and 4 DC), 26 congressmen will vote yes (22 Liberals and 4 UD), and presidential candidate Pepe Lobo is asking the Nacionalistas to abstain.
However, Thomas Shannon has been pressuring the congressmen to vote for the restoration of Zelaya or else! The exact words were that "Shannon scared the living hell out of everyone here including Micheletti." It now seems likely that the Nacionalistas will participate in the vote, in view of the accord. However, the final determination as to Zelaya's reinstatement has yet to be made, and it is far from clear what might happen if the Congress votes against reinstatement or if the Supreme Court disagrees with reinstatement -- as they seem to have the power to do under the accord, to which they do not appear to be parties.
The fourth point had already been met on October 29, before the announcement of the "accord." With much ceremony, control of the Honduran military was turned over to the independent Honduran Electoral Tribunal in accordance with the Honduran Constitution, which requires that to be done one month in advance of the national elections.
The Armed Forces are utilized to guarantee the custody, transportation, and vigilance of electoral materials and other aspects of security for the voting process. The Armed Forces have the logistical ability to deliver the materials to outlying areas, some of which are only accessible by sea or helicopter.
According to President Micheletti, he made a "significant concession" and one of the agreed upon provisions "requires ... foreign powers to drop sanctions, reverse aid cutoffs imposed after the coup, and send observers to the elections." Actually, the translation provided above uses the word "requests" rather than "requires," and if Zelaya's reinstatement is not approved by the Congress and the Supreme Court, all bets on that matter are probably off.
President Micheletti also said that the accord reached late Thursday would establish a unity government and a verification commission to ensure that its conditions are carried out. It would also create a truth commission to investigate the events of the past few months.
The nature of the unity government and verification commission, if the reinstatement of Zelaya is rejected by the Congress or by the Supreme Court, is far from clear. The nature of a unity government in the event that Zelaya is reinstated as president is also far from clear. Who would perform the constitutionally mandated duties of the president? A committee? Consisting of whom? There does not appear to be any constitutional authorization for such a committee.
Even though four points remain to be decided upon, Mr. Zelaya stated: "We are optimistic because Hondurans can reach agreements that are fulfilled. ... This signifies my return to power in the coming days, and peace for Honduras." Mr. Zelaya may be talking through his cowboy hat, or he may have done something to "encourage" a favorable vote by the Congress and the Court. Or, despite his confident statement, it is at least possible that he, rather than President Micheletti, may have been beaten down.
Point two, rejection of political amnesty, is potentially important, as is the omission of any mention of criminal amnesty. This leaves the way open to the trial of Zelaya on various corruption charges as well as for treason. Equally, it leaves those who participated in the "coup" open to trial for their actions.
In Islamabad, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it "an historic agreement," noting "this is a big step forward for the inter-American system." She did not add that it also represents a big victory for the United States in trashing the constitutions of friendly countries and in appeasing el Presidente Chávez of Venezuela.
Meanwhile, Republicans charged on October 29 that "there seems to have been a pattern of aggressive involvement by our ambassador to actively try to violate the law and the constitution." They asked the Government Accountability Office to "investigate the State Department's role in the crisis in Honduras." A spokesman at the State Department declined to comment on Thursday, October 30.
On another front, the Congress's law library is rebuffing calls from the chairmen of the House and Senate foreign relations committees to retract a report on the military-backed coup in Honduras that the lawmakers charge is flawed. The request, by Sen. John Kerry and Rep. Howard Berman, has sparked cries of censorship from Republicans who say the Democrats don't like what the August report said -- mainly, that the government of Honduras had the authority to remove deposed President Manuel Zelaya from office.
A spokeswoman for the Law Library of Congress -- one of six Library of Congress agencies -- said Thursday that the research agency stands by the report and that Librarian of Congress James Billington is preparing a response to the lawmakers.
Updates will follow as events develop.