The National Catholic Review
The Editors
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Finding a Way Out

The reappearance of Manuel Zelaya, the deposed president of Honduras, from within the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, provoked street demonstrations and an emergency powers decree from the de facto government. Since his return the city has witnessed marches and confrontations in the streets, military raids on media outlets, a death threat to a Catholic priest and a baseball stadium converted into a holding pen for detainees—all images that evoke unpleasant memories not just in Honduras but throughout Latin America.

The Obama administration seemed off its game in the final days of September, perhaps because of the accelerating pace of events in Tegucigalpa or perhaps because of genuine frustration with both sides of this standoff. But one thing it may have gotten right in its efforts to restore Zelaya was the suspension of visas allowing travel to the United States. The restrictions seem to have motivated members of Honduras’ business class to step into the civil fray with their own proposal for a way out: Briefly, Zelaya can be restored with limited powers but must defend himself against allegations of corruption.

The plan is not perfect. One wonders, after three months of crisis and with positions hardening on both sides, if Zelaya can count on a truly fair trial. But the business leaders’ proposal comes closer to what Costa Rica’s President Oscar Arias has proposed: to return Zelaya to the president’s office (with immunity offered all around). That could be the basis for dialogue that both sides could accept without much political shame. If Zelaya is true to his word and confident of his innocence, he should accept this plan. The increasingly embattled de facto president, Roberto Micheletti, would be wise, for his part, to embrace the proposal as a face- and life-saving way out of what could otherwise deteriorate into a terrible civil conflict.

Sudan’s Crucified Christians

Gangs affiliated with the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda have been crossing the border into Sudan, “crucifying” Christians during raids. Near the town of Nazra, seven recently died. On discovering the bodies, villagers described what they found as a “grotesque crucifixion scene.” The guerillas nailed the victims to pieces of wood on the ground before killing them. Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio blames the government in Khartoum for not increasing security in that area and has called upon the international community for help.

In one attack, guerillas rushed into Our Lady Queen of Peace in Enzo during novena prayers on the Feast of the Assumption. After desecrating the host they abducted 17 young people. One captive was tied to a tree and killed, according to Aid to the Church in Need, a charity assisting persecuted Christians. The bishop said “the attackers clearly wanted to harm the people because they knew they were at prayer.” Bishop Hiiboro ordered three days of prayer, and 20,000 people walked in silent protest against the government’s inaction. The Khartoum government is failing Christians within its population, ignoring its responsibility to safeguard some of its most vulnerable citizens. Such events underscore the importance of the doctrine of the responsibility to protect, whereby a sovereign state like Sudan should be held responsible for protecting its citizens from atrocities like these.

The Grand Master Visits

America’s editors do not normally host people who are formally addressed as “Your Most Eminent Highness,” which made the visit of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta, Fra Matthew Festing, all the more delightful. Fra Matthew’s trip from Rome to the United States was part of his charge to care for the members and works of his order. During his visit to the magazine, he outlined the international network of charitable works that fulfill the order’s motto: Tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum. When one editor remarked that the defense of faith and service to the poor are connected, Fra Matthew, whose friendly manner belies his august title, readily agreed.

The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta began ministering to the crusaders in Jerusalem in 1099 and was formally approved as a religious order in 1113. Today, though the order is a sovereign entity, its nonpartisan status enables the members to work in a variety of political hot spots. They provided humanitarian relief during the crisis in the Balkans in the late 1990s, for example, when they transported blankets all the way from Scotland to internally displaced people. Efforts among the war-torn recently led to the death of three members working in Afghanistan.

Fra Matthew, an Englishman descended from a Catholic recusant family, also boasts an unusual connection to America. During a tour of our offices he paused before an icon of St. Edmund Campion, the English priest martyred not only for his ministry to Elizabethan-era Catholics, but also for his provocative pamphlets. Fra Matthew remarked that his family once owned the house where Campion’s printing press was located, which published the writings “which caused all the bother.”

Comments

John Donaghy | 10/13/2009 - 11:21am

I am disturbed and disappointed by your editorial on the crisis in Honduras.

I have been living in Honduras since June 2007 as a lay missionary with the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán and serve as a volunteer in a rural parish and with the diocesan Caritas office. I am concerned that your editorial misses some of the reality of the situation and misunderstands the proposal of some business sectors which I believe would not provide a just resolution of the conflict.

First of all, your editorial may give the impression that demonstrations against the coup are new. There have been demonstrations against the coup almost everyday since Zelaya was removed from Honduras  on June 28 and a determined Resistance has grown up throughout the nation. The return of Zelaya did not provoke demonstrations, though more occurred. His return did elicit from the de facto government a 36 hour curfew, an executive decree that put serious restrictions on civil rights, and the closure by military raids of anti- coup media – a television channel and a radio station, as well as the conversion of a baseball stadium into a temporary holding cell, some of which you noted.

But I most object to your description of the business leaders’ proposal. I presume you are referring to the proposal of Adolfo Facussé. There has also been another proposal by a businessman, Rafael Ferrari, I believe, just released, but I have encountered little information about his proposal.

The Facussé proposal is a very problematic proposal. It looks as if it follows in the framework of the San José Accord promoted by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. But I believe it is just a proposal that seeks a temporary solution that will only reinforce the status quo that led to the current situation and not further the cause of justice in Honduras.

The Facussé  proposal does not offer amnesty to Zelaya. In fact, it does not hold all parties equally responsible for their actions. Zelaya would return as president and would be almost immediately brought before a judicial tribunal.

Facussé himself has suggested that he would be free for a few days and then placed under house arrest until the elections are over.  Micheletti, on the other hand, would no longer hold the office of the presidency and be returned to Congress. Facussé has suggested that he be granted that position of congressman for life.

The proposal is probably dead in the water for, even under these conditions, Micheletti is
opposed to the return of Zelaya to the presidency under any circumstances.

Under Facussé’s proposal Zelaya would have his presidential powers seriously limited. Control over the Armed Forces would be in the hands of the council of ministers who would be named by the political parties in proportion to the votes they obtained in the 2005 elections. This will only reinforce the power of those who were behind the coup.


In addition, Facussé suggested a 3000 member multinational peacekeeping force to police the proposal, suggesting troops from Colombia, Canada, and Panamá.

Not only has Micheletti rejected this because he considers it unconstitutional, some anti-coup forces have raised questions about the presence of Colombia and Panamanian forces, since these countries are somewhat sympathetic to the coup regime and there are serious questions about the human rights record of the Colombian military. Facussé also mentioned the possibility of UN peacekeepers, but the precedent of Haiti has caused some to raise their eyebrows at the prospect of the blue-helmeted UN forces, even though some in the Resistance have also suggested the need for their presence.


But what Facussé’s and other proposals really lack are any provisions to include other social groups in the process of beginning to resolve the crisis that has plagued Honduras since before the coup – a political and economic situation which favors wealthy political and economic elites. The Facussé proposal reinforces the power of the two major parties, the National and Liberal parties, who have controlled the Honduras government for many years.

Soon after Zelaya’s return Monseñor Juan José Pineda, a Tegucigalpa auxiliary bishop, on his own, assumed a role of opening up the place for dialogue, visiting Zelaya in the Brazilian embassy. Though his proposals are somewhat vague, he has introduced the idea of a dialogue that would include representatives from Zelaya and Micheletti, as well as from the Resistance (the alliance of groups opposed to the coup) and from the UCD, the Civic Democratic Union which supports Micheletti. This at least recognizes that there are more actors in this crisis than the two major political parties.

But even so, there are serious issues that need to be considered.

A recent poll showed a growing number of people opposed to the coup: 52.7% against and only 17.4% in favor; 51.6% are in favor of Zelaya’s return to the presidency and 33% are
opposed. It also showed 66.4% support for holding elections in November, though only 53.8% said they would definitely vote.

Also, since the coup a somewhat organized Resistance has been formed and many in this group have gone beyond the issue of the return of Zelaya to advocate for a Constitutional
Convention, the very issue that prompted Zelaya’s removal in the first place. There is a great deal of concern that the return of Zelaya to power and elections will only lead to more of the same.

And so the situation is very complex, but so-called proposals like those of Facussé do not really respond to the reality on the ground – especially the continuing injustice and inequality which have plagued Honduras for decades.

Currently, after the visit of OAS representatives, representatives of both parties are negotiating, using the Arias plan as a basis. That is a good start but whether or not these Guaymaras talks will lead to a peaceful resolution is an important question. An even more serious concern is whether it will leave the way open for changes in the Honduras political system to allow for more justice and to address the inequality and corruption that prevent real justice for this, the third poorest nation in Latin America.

Christopher Mulcahy | 10/12/2009 - 9:37am
Editors
I believe there is a typo in your program.  I am unable to read the two (2) indicated responses to this article.  Whether I click "write a response" or "read responses", I still get only the page for making a response.
 
 
 
John Donaghy | 10/11/2009 - 10:07pm






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I am disturbed and disappointed by your editorial on
the crisis in Honduras.

 

I have been living in Honduras since June 2007 as a lay
missionary with the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán and serve as a volunteer in
a rural parish and with the diocesan Caritas office. I am concerned that your
editorial misses some of the reality of the situation and misunderstands the
proposal of some business sectors which I believe would not provide a just
resolution of the conflict.

 

First of all, your editorial may give the impression
that demonstrations against the coup are new. There have been demonstrations
against the coup almost everyday since Zelaya was removed from Honduras  on June 28 and a determined Resistance
has grown up throughout the nation. The return of Zelaya did not provoke
demonstrations, though more occurred. His return did elicit from the de facto government a 36 hour curfew,
an executive decree that put serious restrictions on civil rights, and the
closure by military raids of anti- coup media – a television channel and a
radio station, as well as the conversion of a baseball stadium into a temporary
holding cell, some of which you noted.

 

But I most object to your description of the business
leaders’ proposal. I presume you are referring to the proposal of Adolfo
Facussé. There has also been another proposal by a businessman, Rafael Ferrari,
I believe, just released, but I have encountered little information about his
proposal.

 

The Facussé proposal is a very problematic proposal. It
looks as if it follows in the framework of the San José Accord promoted by
Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. But I believe it is just a proposal that
seeks a temporary solution that will only reinforce the status quo that led to
the current situation and not further the cause of justice in Honduras.


The Facussé 
proposal does not offer amnesty to 
Zelaya. In fact, it does not
hold all parties equally responsible for their actions. Zelaya would return as
president and would be almost immediately brought before a judicial tribunal.
Facussé himself has suggested that he would be free for a few days and then
placed under house arrest until the elections are over.  Micheletti, on the other hand, would no
longer hold the office of the presidency and be returned to Congress. Facussé
has suggested that he be granted that position of congressman for life.

 

The proposal is
probably dead in the water for, even under these conditions, Micheletti is opposed
to the return of Zelaya to the presidency under any circumstances.

Under Facussé’s proposal Zelaya would have his presidential powers seriously
limited. Control over the Armed Forces would be in the hands of the council of
ministers who would be named by the political parties in proportion to the
votes they obtained in the 2005 elections. This will only reinforce the power
of those who were behind the coup.

In addition, Facussé suggested a 3000 member multinational peacekeeping force
to police the proposal, suggesting troops from Colombia, Canada, and Panamá.
Not only has Micheletti rejected this because he considers it unconstitutional,
some anti-coup forces have raised questions about the presence of Colombia and
Panamanian forces, since these countries are somewhat sympathetic to the coup
regime and there are serious questions about the human rights record of the
Colombian military. Facussé also mentioned the possibility of UN peacekeepers,
but the precedent of Haiti has caused some to raise their eyebrows at the
prospect of the blue-helmeted UN forces, even though some in the Resistance
have also suggested the need for their presence.

But what Facussé’s and other proposals really lack are any provisions to
include other social groups in the process of beginning to resolve the crisis
that has plagued Honduras since before the coup – a political and economic
situation which favors wealthy political and economic elites. The Facussé proposal
reinforces the power of the two major parties, the National and Liberal
parties, who have controlled the Honduras government for many years.

 

Soon after Zelaya’s
return Monseñor Juan José Pineda, a Tegucigalpa auxiliary bishop, on his own,
assumed a role of opening up the place for dialogue, visiting Zelaya in the Brazilian
embassy. Though his proposals are somewhat vague, he has introduced the idea of
a dialogue that[size= 11pt; font-family: Calibri] [/size]would include representatives from Zelaya and
Micheletti, as well as from the Resistance (the alliance of groups opposed to
the coup) and from the UCD, the Civic Democratic Union which supports
Micheletti. This at least recognizes that there are more actors in this crisis
than the two major political parties.

 

But even so, there
are serious issues that need to be considered.

 

A recent poll showed
a growing number of people opposed to the coup: 52.7% against and only 17.4% in
favor; 51.6% are in favor of Zelaya’s return to the presidency and 33% are
opposed. It also showed 66.4% support for holding elections in November, though
only 53.8% said they would definitely vote.

 

Also, since the coup
a somewhat organized Resistance has been formed and many in this group have
gone beyond the issue of the return of Zelaya to advocate for a Constitutional
Convention, the very issue that prompted Zelaya’s removal in the first place.
There is a great deal of concern that the return of Zelaya to power and
elections will only lead to more of the same.

 

And so the situation
is very complex, but so-called proposals like those of Facussé do not really
respond to the reality on the ground – especially the continuing injustice and
inequality which have plagued Honduras for decades.

 

Currently, after the
visit of OAS representatives, representatives of both parties are negotiating,
using the Arias plan as a basis. That is a good start but whether it will lead
to a peaceful resolution is an important question. An even more serious concern
is whether it will leave the way open for changes in the Honduras political
system to allow for more justice and to address the inequality and corruption
that prevent real justice for this, the third poorest nation in Latin America.

 

 

Test Kuhlman | 10/11/2009 - 4:36pm
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Test Kuhlman | 10/11/2009 - 5:15pm
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Test Kuhlman | 10/11/2009 - 5:14pm
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Test Kuhlman | 10/11/2009 - 5:11pm
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Test Kuhlman | 10/11/2009 - 5:10pm
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Test Kuhlman | 10/11/2009 - 5:08pm
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