A Pox on Both Houses: Honduras Edition

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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23 Responses

  1. Avatar Katherine
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    says:

    If the Democrats had managed a military coup to overthrow Bush on the justification that he was violating the constitution, there wouldn’t be much question who was on the wrong side.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Katherine
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      says:

      But in many ways, that’s exactly Prof. Fontana’s point. The Honduran Constitution is not the US Constitution. The Honduran Constitution explicitly demands that the President be removed from office in circumstances like this. Whether that Constitutional provision should be disregarded ought normally to depend on your political ideology. Ordinarily, in a situation like this, you would expect conservatives to be taking the side of Zelaya and liberals to take the side of the Constitution limitations. That is precisely the opposite of what has largely been happening here in our discussions, suggesting that both sides are just siding with the group that they find most politically agreeable.

      The difference in your hypothetical is that the US Constitution requires a President to be impeached before he can be removed. Under the Honduran Constitution, under certain circumstances, removal is automatic. So you have to be careful about applying US norms to Honduras.Report

  2. Avatar Roque Nuevo
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    says:

    The search for easy heroes and villains in Honduras might be harder than anyone wants to believe.

    This is what most people can’t accept. People want heroes (Zelaya, for “resisting” a military coup) and villains (the gorilas who operated the coup). Some people have a low tolerance for ambiguity, or something, and this is supposed to be a characteristic of the so-called authoritarian personality [Adorno, et al] (or one with a propensity to fascism). In this case, then, commenters who insist on the black-and-white reading of Zelaya=democracy; military=fascism are only displaying their own fascist propensities while those who argue for a more nuanced interpretation of events are the true liberals here.

    I don’t understand why you assume that conservatives would naturally want to disregard “Constitutional provisions.” Conservative opposition to Roe is not about disregarding the Constitution but about amending it. I just can’t see why you would expect conservatives to side with Zelaya if he’s violating the constitution on the one hand and on the other he’s operating populist policies in line with Chávez, which conservatives will despise regardless of the constitution.

    In the case of liberals, it’s plain that they are simply basing their opinions on the group the find “most politically agreeable.” As Katherine illustrates, they find it unobjectionable to demand the removal of Bush, even by military coup, for what they determine are constitutional violations, while at the same time demanding the reinstatement of Zelaya, in defiance of the constitution. This attitude cannot be explained by any reference to political philosophy, only to political expediency.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but “violating the Constitution” is not grounds for either removing the President or for impeaching him. That is based on his committing “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The idea that Bush was “violating the constitution” is a leftist/thirdworldist meme that is not supported by the facts. For any so-called violation, there are many reasons to argue that it is not, in fact, a violation. That’s why there are appeals lawyers and appeals courts: “violating the constitution” is not as straightforward as “violating” what some leftisty/thirdworldist group says it is.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Roque Nuevo
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      says:

      1. My point (and I think Prof. Fontana’s) is based on figuring out where each party would stand if Zelaya’s and his opponents’ ideologies were a non-factor. IOW – the point is that Zelaya’s ideology is significantly affecting the opinions of both sides. I’ll acknowledge that my choice of the word “disregard” was poor. A better way to phrase it is probably that conservatives tend in most circumstances to err on the side of democratic majorities when interpreting the Constitution, where modern liberals tend to err on the side of minority rights.

      2. As for what constitutes grounds for impeachment (other means of removal probably don’t exist under the US Constitution, although I suppose in a situation where someone who lost an election refused to leave office, forcible removal would be justified….but that’s not really the same thing)… The question of what constitutes a “high crime or misdemeanor” is one that is pretty debatable. That said, it’s also one that’s largely irrelevant – Congress can impeach for just about anything it wishes, and it would probably not be appealable to the courts. AFAIK, it’s widely understood that any attempt to make such an appeal would wind up getting dismissed as a “political question” so as to avoid a Constitutional crisis. That said, my personal interpretation of the phrase has long been that it implies any sort of abuse of power or office. So, under my interpretation, a President who knowingly abandoned his oath to defend the Constitution would commit an impeachable offense, but a President who, in his capacity as a private citizen, went out and committed a crime of any sort, they would not have committed an impeachable offense. Again, though, these interpretations are largely irrelevant – Congress could pretty much impeach and convict for whatever it felt like with something approaching impunity as a practical matter.Report

  3. Avatar Roque Nuevo
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    says:

    the point is that Zelaya’s ideology is significantly affecting the opinions of both sides.

    I see your point but I don’t agree a hundred percent. I see those arguing in favor of the coup and against Zelaya as marshaling a lot of different arguments and not all are based on ideology, for example, your own arguments based on the Honduran constitution. On the other hand, those arguing in favor of Zelaya are only repeating the points that he was elected democratically, that he was only planning a referendum on term limits, and so forth. As the example of James shows on your blog entry, these people fail to engage the constitutional arguments and fall back on name-calling and other ad hominem ruses. As the example of Katherine shows (above), these people are not averse to coups, as long as the right side is operating them. This has been true since Lenin’s October coup.

    I can’t imagine how ideology could not be a factor in any political analysis. Ideology is part of politics one way or another. But, for example, if Zelaya was a liberal politician who was deposed in similar circumstances and not a thirdworldist Chavista, I’m certain I would have the same opinion I have now. The problem is that a liberal politician would not try to overrun the constitution like Zelaya did.Report

  4. Avatar revbob22
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    says:

    Mark wrote: “The difference in your hypothetical is that the US Constitution requires a President to be impeached before he can be removed. Under the Honduran Constitution, under certain circumstances, removal is automatic. So you have to be careful about applying US norms to Honduras.”

    Which is where every knee jerk reaction to this crisis shows itself for what it is, an attempt to interpret events in Honduras through the eyes of another constitution.

    The Honduran constitution is pretty clear, try to promote re-election and you’re done. No hearings, no trials, nothing. Boom, you are no longer a Honduran citizen, period. We may not agree with it, we may not like it, but it IS the law of Their land.Report

  5. Avatar James
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    says:

    http://spiritofcontradiction.wordpress.com/2009/07/04/honduras-frequently-unasked-questions-that-should-be-asked/

    Zeleya: a man so eager to install himself as permanant dictator he forgot to propose himself as an electoral candidate for the elections later this year…Report

  6. Avatar Roque Nuevo
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    says:

    Decomisan varios ordenadores en la Casa Presidencial con los resultados de la consulta que quería hacer Zelaya. europapress.cat
    Honduras: computers seized with “election results” pre-loaded

    He forgot because he wasn’t planning on there even being elections in November. He was planning on winning the referendum with election fraud and then becoming president-for-life:

    Tegucigalpa — The National Direction of Criminal Investigation confiscated computers in the Presidential House in which were registered the supposed results of the referendum on the reform of the Constitution that was planned by former President

    Report

  7. Avatar James
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    says:

    Get me a reliable source instead of some hack who says things like “Jeez, it’s like Chicago” please, Roque.Report

    • Avatar Roque Nuevo in reply to James
      Ignored
      says:

      James:
      In the first place, nobody said, ““Jeez, it’s like Chicago.”

      The articles I linked to show evidence of an attempted election fraud designed to overturn Honduran term limit laws in favor of Zelaya, who would then be enabled to continue as president.

      James says,

      Zeleya [sic]: a man so eager to install himself as permanant dictator he forgot to propose himself as an electoral candidate for the elections later this year…

      Zelaya could not run for president in November under the Honduran constitution, which was the whole reason for the referendum/possible fraud in the first place.

      I put up links to articles from US Today and from a Catalán newspaper. Why are these not “reliable sources” in your world?

      Decomisan varios ordenadores en la Casa Presidencial con los resultados de la consulta que quería hacer Zelaya. europapress.cat

      El fiscal adjunto [Roberto Ramírez] también indicó que hay evidencias de que en los últimos días fueron sustraídos documentos, material informático y cualquier prueba que pudiese dar luz en las investigaciones sobre el posible fraude que se quería cometer en el referéndum sobre la cuarta urna.

      The assistant prosecutor [Roberto Ramírez] also said that there is evidence that documents and computer information have been removed along with any proof that could clear up the investigation into the possible fraud in the referendum on the fourth poll.

      Now I suppose you’ll try and discredit the sources for this news item, namely the assistant prosecutor in Honduras. If so, then give me some evidence why he can’t be trusted, apart from your desire not to trust him because he gives evidence against your position.Report

  8. Avatar James
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    says:

    If he was installed by the post-coup junta he’s most likely a mere fabricator-in-chief, I shall check this out.Report

    • Avatar Roque Nuevo in reply to James
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      says:

      If he was installed by the post-coup junta he’s most likely a mere fabricator-in-chief, I shall check this out.

      I’ll wait till you do, which I suppose will be never—since you really lack any other argument aside from the ad hominem you just proposed.Report

  9. Avatar James
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    says:

    Here’s what I was talking about: http://www.rantburg.com/poparticle.php?D=2009-07-18&ID=274578 Leads on from the link.Report

    • Avatar Roque Nuevo in reply to James
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      says:

      Your link is just to a translation of the article in the Catalán newspaper I linked to (above). The author of the translation inserted the comment, “Jeez, it’s just like Chicago.” I suppose that he is the “hack” you just referred to. However, he is not the source of this information. The Catalán newspaper and the assistant prosecutor are. This normally would be authoritative enough for most purposes. In this case, the information makes it necessary for you to modify your original opinion of Zelaya. You find it hard to do so for your own reasons. But it’s really not all that hard. You can admit that Zelaya was trying to subvert the state of Honduras and still support his overall programs (whatever they are). You can admit that Zelaya wanted to become just another tin-pot Latin American dictator and still maintain your thirdworldist views.Report

  10. Avatar James
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    says:

    I think you’re staging an assumption of legitimacy to suit your own interests.Report

    • Avatar Roque Nuevo in reply to James
      Ignored
      says:

      I think you’re staging an assumption of legitimacy to suit your own interests.

      What the hell is this supposed to mean? I’m not “staging” anything. I’m just linking to information that supports my position here.

      Can we not engage in ad hominem remarks? It detracts from the quality of the debate and diminishes the pleasure I derive from it.Report

  11. Avatar James
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    says:

    Basically Roque, you have a way that you want this one to work out. You want your prejudice that:

    “Zelaya wanted to become just another tin-pot Latin American dictator” to be correct. Accordingly, you’ve just taken it as a given that this isn’t a post-coup fabrication (& if you’d just staged a coup…Wouldn’t you be keen on fabricating some fake data to give yourself false legitimacy?)

    You are very keen to depict me as a “thirdworldist” (whatever the hell one of those is), yet here seem baffled at the suggestion that you may be seeing things along your own prejudices, indeed accuse me of ad hominem!Report

    • Avatar Roque Nuevo in reply to James
      Ignored
      says:

      Jeez, James:
      Why is it false that Zelaya was planning a fake ballot/referendum/opinion poll on revising the constitution? Why is is wrong to suppose that this conspiracy was part of a plan to take control of the state of Honduras?

      Of course it’s true that I don’t support the national socialist revolutionary Bolivarianism that Hugo Chávez and his latest acolyte, Zelaya, are selling. I think that the best way forward for Latin American nations is more capitalism, not less. At least, this has been my experience so far.

      So it’s not true that I “want” Zelaya to turn out to be just another wannabe caudillo in the old mold. That was my opinion of him before the so-called golpe and it was my opinion of him before this latest incident. He certainly seems to fit it better than the junta today ruling Honduras fits the mold of golpista/gorila. I’m just putting up information that supports my position. There’s nothing underhanded about it at all.

      None of this has anything to do with the facts that the media have laid out: evidence of a conspiracy to commit voter fraud was found in Zelaya’s possession.

      To summarize: I put up evidence that Zelaya was planning vote fraud, which, if true, would discredit most arguments in his favor. You challenged me to come up with some “reliable sources.” I already had put up two reliable sources. Also, you confirmed my prediction that you’d just use rank speculation to discredit this new information—”Wouldn’t you be keen on fabricating some fake data to give yourself false legitimacy?”

      By the way, if the shoe fits…Third-worldism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      Third-worldism is a tendency within left wing political thought to regard the division between developed, classically liberal nations and developing, or “third world” ones as of primary political importance. Third-worldism tends to involve support for Third World nation states or national liberation movements against Western nations or their proxies in conflicts where the particular Third World state or movement.

      Report

  12. Avatar James
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    says:

    I’m not a Third-Worldist, then. Will you withdraw your description of me as such?Report

  13. Avatar James
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    says:

    “Worth engaging in” test passed with flying colours, there.

    Why is it false that Zelaya was planning a fake ballot/referendum/opinion poll on revising the constitution?

    He was planning a non-binding vote, yes.

    Why is is wrong to suppose that this conspiracy was part of a plan to take control of the state of Honduras?

    Lack of evidence.

    You did provide evidence, but as far as I could tell it itself relied upon speculation (stuff had been wiped, we know what was wiped) & might not be from a reliable source (I have no idea about who appointed this figure). Like I said, a fabrication would be entirely understandable.

    I did ask you for something which you’d already provided though, so sorry for that.

    I think that the best way forward for Latin American nations is more capitalism, not less. At least, this has been my experience so far.

    The reason Chavez has such virulent enemies is nothing to do with him being the enemy of a meritocracy. It is because he opposed an oligarchy. A tiny number of Venezuelans holding a massive amount of wealth. I really fail to see the case for this being a better state of affairs than all that money being spent on massive state projects, & nobody has really even bothered to put it to me (besides some shoddy arguments about the poor developing “entitlements”. Well I don’t think them being entitled to healthcare is a much less suitable state of affairs than the rich being entitled to multiple mansions…)

    If you are willing to present the case for a tiny fraction of the population hoarding the wealth being a better state of affairs than it being channeled into projects aiding the entire population then please do so. I’ve found the opponents of Chavez remarkably wary of doing so. If you wish Venezuela had stayed an oligarchy & wish it to return to one then it’d be nice to know what’s so great about them.Report

    • Avatar Roque Nuevo in reply to James
      Ignored
      says:

      “Worth engaging in” test passed with flying colours, there.

      What’s this supposed to mean?

      He was planning a non-binding vote, yes.

      He was planning to rig the non-binding vote, according to press reports. You have yet to respond to this little point—the whole point I’m making. I was clear when I said that I was supposing that the vote-rigging conspiracy was part of a larger one—to take control over the state of Honduras. I can’t honestly see any other reason to rig the “non binding vote.” Can you? There can be no “evidence” of this larger plan since, if it really existed, it was foiled by other powers of the state of Honduras, namely the congress, etc etc.

      You did provide evidence, but as far as I could tell it itself relied upon speculation (stuff had been wiped, we know what was wiped) & might not be from a reliable source (I have no idea about who appointed this figure). Like I said, a fabrication would be entirely understandable.

      The assistant prosecutor declared that he had evidence that documents and computer information had been destroyed or removed from government offices. He never said he knew “what was wiped out.” We haven’t seen the evidence he has yet. Maybe he doesn’t have any or maybe the evidence he has is not conclusive. All we can do is wait and see.

      Yes, it’s true that “a fabrication would be entirely understandable.” But so would rigging the “non binding vote.” That it “would be understandable” doesn’t mean it’s a fact. You have no facts at your disposal to show that a “fabrication” of evidence has taken place. On the other hand, I do have evidence that a vote-rigging conspiracy was in operation-—the goddam government computers seized by the authorities, etc etc.

      The reason Chavez has such virulent enemies is nothing to do with him being the enemy of a meritocracy. It is because he opposed an oligarchy. A tiny number of Venezuelans holding a massive amount of wealth. Etc Etc.

      Before Chávez, Venezuela had possibly the largest and most dynamic middle-class in Latin America. His policies have destroyed this for generations. Where did you get the information that Venezuela was an oligarchy? Does your use of the word mean something like the “government of a few rich people?” In that case, you’re probably referring to the huge income disparities that happen all across Latin America. It’s true that elites hoard their wealth and power and that they do so by corrupt and sometimes violent means, but this is not the same thing as being governed by an oligarchy.

      Elites use state power to maintain their status. How can this be considered capitalism? That’s what I mean by saying that Latin America’s development problems can be addressed better by more, rather than less, capitalism. The solution is not to use state power in favor of other people, even if these people are living in absolute poverty. The solution is to make the virtues of capitalism available to more and more people, including those living in absolute poverty. None of this means that I oppose using the power of the state for humanitarian goals in the fight against poverty. I’m just taking a general point of view about the proper role of the state.

      If you are willing to present the case for a tiny fraction of the population hoarding the wealth being a better state of affairs than it being channeled into projects aiding the entire population then please do so.

      This is plainly a transparent false choice. There is another way out of the problem of poverty. It’s not a question of either using massive handouts or letting elites hoard all the wealth.

      […] besides some shoddy arguments about the poor developing “entitlements”

      “Entitlements” means, “a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group ; also : funds supporting or distributed by such a program.” My position is that entitlements are a negative factor in good governance but that some are truly necessary. But it’s just a fact that the Chávez government expands its power through expanding these “government programs providing benefits to members”…etc etc. Opposing this kind of expansion of state power through entitlements is not the same thing as supporting an “oligarchy.”Report

  14. Avatar James
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    says:

    We’ll see what emerges with the computer stuff. We’re basically both speculating for the time being.

    In that case, you’re probably referring to the huge income disparities that happen all across Latin America.

    Which Chavez has been challenging for the past decade…

    How can this be considered capitalism?

    Because that is what capitalism is! The ownership of the means of production of capital by a bourgeois ruling class rather than the workers who perform the labour. That was the situation in Venezuela, now oil is controlled by the representatives of the people. I don’t know what exactly that should be termed (socialism is a word for it, but not exactly precise enough), but I consider that to be progress. Again, your point blank denial of the fact that there was a tiny wealthy elite, as well as reference to the norm in L. America really doesn’t constitute a defence of the situation before the revolution, let alone a case for returning to a tiny number of mega-affluent oligarchs holding all the wealth of the nation’s natural resources (as continues to be true in Russia, the Middle East, etc, to the severe detriment of those areas).Report

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