Posts tagged ‘Honduras’

Congrats to the Obama Administration...

... for taking one of the few governments in Latin America that actually is trying to respect its democratic Constitution and forcing them to disavow the protections in its Constitution against elected officials attempting to hold onto power and reinstate a strongman friend of Hugo Chavez.

From start to finish I have been unable to understand the Obama Administrations policy in Honduras.  I just refuse to believe he is actively working as an agent for totalitarianism, so the best explanation I can come up with is that he made an ignorant mistake in his early reactions to the Zelaya and has since doubled down on the mistake rather than admitting it and reversing himself. This theory is consistent with John Kerry's attempts to hide the evidence of the administration's mistake, not to mention Hillary Clinton's personality at State.

In a foreign policy career that so far has been marked by a marked softness, it is amazing to me that the one place Obama has decided he is going to demonstrate his cojones internationally is in helping a wannabee dictator return to power in a democratic nation.

Earlier posts here and here.

Obama Administration -- Still Wrong on Honduras

via Bruce McQuain:

David Freddoso reports that the CRS's Senior Foreign Law Specialist Norma Gutierrez has completed a study of the Honduran actions as they relate to former president Mel Zelaya and they don't reflect well on the US. Freddoso has distilled them to the following:

* The Honduran Congress appears to have acted properly in deposing President Manuel Zelaya. Unlike in the United States, the Honduran Congress has the last word when it comes to interpreting the Constitution. Although there is no provision in Honduras's Constitution for impeachment as such, the body does have powers to disapprove of the president's official acts, and to replace him in the event that he is incapable of performing his duties. Most importantly, the Congress also has the authority to interpret exactly what that means.

* The Supreme Court was legally entitled to ask the military to arrest Zelaya. The high court, which is the constitutional venue for trials of the president and other high-ranking officials, also recognized the Congress's ouster of Zelaya when it referred his case back down to a lower court afterward, on the grounds that he was "no longer a high-ranking government official."

* The military did not act properly in forcibly expatriating Zelaya. According to the CRS report and other news stories, Honduran authorities are investigating their decision, which the military justified at the time as a means of preventing bloodshed. In fact, Zelaya should have been given a trial, and if convicted of seeking reelection, he would have lost his citizenship. But he is still a citizen now, and the Constitution forbids the expatriation of Honduran citizens by their government.

* The proper line of succession was followed after Zelaya's ouster. Because there was no Vice President in office when Zelaya was removed (he had resigned to run for president), Micheletti was the proper successor, as he had been president of the Congress.

Obama Still Lost In Honduras

Juan Carlos Hidalgo, via The Liberty Papers:

The Obama administration is threatening not to recognize the result of Honduras' presidential election in late November unless Manuel Zelaya returns to the presidency beforehand.

The presidential poll was already scheduled prior to Zelaya's (constitutional) removal from office last June. The candidates had already been selected by their parties through an open primary process. The current civilian interim president, Roberto Micheletti, is not running for office and plans to step down in January as stipulated by the Constitution. Both major presidential candidates supported the ouster of Zelaya. The political campaign is playing out in an orderly manner, and there's a significant chance that the candidate from the opposition National Party will win the presidency. The independent Electoral Tribunal is overseeing the process.

And yet the U.S. Department of State is signaling that it won't recognize the result of the poll in the name of defending Zelaya's return to power.

I am still really, really scratching my head over this.  I suppose such efforts of the US to ignore due process in Latin America have occured in the past to support a pro-American regime, but Zelaya is if anything anti-American and explicitly aligned with Hugo Chavez.  This simply makes no sense.   As Quincy of the Liberty Papers writes

The Obama Administration has been going out of its way to be on the wrong side of both the law and morality when it comes to Honduras. Obama has his first chance to rebuke the shameful history of the US being propping up dictators in Latin America and what does he do? He goes out of his way to prop up a would-be dictator who had neither the support of the people nor of the Honduran Constitution. He's laid sanctions on the Honduran people. He refuses to recognize the legal, constitutional government of a country.

Agreed.  Shameful.  If Zelaya gets away with this, expect to see a rash of Latin American leaders attempting to overstay their terms as president.

The Honduran Constitution

I wish I had the exact quote in front of me, but one of the lines from the Honduran Constitution was that President was subject to extreme sanctions for even mentioning in public the possibility of extending his term beyond Constitutional limits.  This is one of the provisions that Manuel Zelaya was ousted for violating.

Now, such a provision sounds very odd to our ears.  Until one considers that any number of other "democratically" elected South American presidents have held suspect "elections" that waived the Constitution and gave them extra terms.  Hugo Chavez is but one example.  Seeing this around them, the authors of the Honduran Constitution  did everything they could think of to prevent such an occurrence.  They wanted real term limits and they did not want them to be waived by any process. They knew that democratically elected Presidents had a way of becoming dictators in Latin America.

Unfortunately, in what I hope was ignorance but others have argued is calculated, Hillary Clinton's state department and Obama are backing Zelaya and arguing that, against any reasonable reading of the Constitution, he was wrongly ousted.

Now, in Nicaragua, we can again see exactly why the Honduran Constitution writers were so paranoid, and why it is so depressing the Administration has taken the position it has:

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega announced Sunday, on the 30th anniversary of the leftist Sandinista revolution he led, that he would seek a referendum to change the constitution to allow him to seek reelection.

Following in the footsteps of elected regional allies, Ortega told thousands of supporters here that he would seek a referendum to let "the people say if they want to reward or punish" their leaders with reelection.

His close leftist allies who have had rules changed enabling them to remain in power include presidents Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.

In the last month President Manuel Zelaya in neighboring Honduras was ousted in a coup by his own military after seeking similar action.

I am sure Jimmy Carter will be available to put his imprimatur on the election.

Honduras & The Rule of Law

In my July 4 post, I wrote that many Americans make what I think of as a mistake in elevating voting and democracy as the primary wonders of the United States.  In that post, I argued that  -- 1.  The Rule of Law  2.  Protection of Individual Rights and 3.  The Subordination of the Government to the Citizenry -- were all more important than voting.

It seems this was a timely post, as Obama appears hell-bent on making the same mistake in Honduras:

Again and again Obama stresses the fact that Mel Zelaya was "democratically-elected". But the same could be said about many of today's dictators. Elections are only one part of the democratic process. The other, and the one that sustains the electoral process, is the rule of law. Focusing only on the fact that Zelaya was "democratically-elected" but ignoring the fact that he has attempted to subvert Honduran constitutional principles that ensure such democratic elections is bad enough.

However, continuing that line of criticism after being apprised of the constitutional arguments and the process which led to Zeyala's ouster is completely unacceptable. Yes, we back the right of people to democratically elect their leaders. But we must also back their decision, driven by the rule of law, to remove a leader when he refuses to follow the law he is sworn to uphold. Why is it that Obama, the "Constitutional law professor, doesn't appear to "get" that?

In Honduras, Obama is siding against the rule of law, against the legislative branch, and against the Supreme Court, but for Executive power and for an enemy of liberty.  Hmm, maybe he is consistent after all.

America's Worst Sheriff

I am working on a longer post on Sheriff Joe Arpaio's sweeps through Hispanic neighborhoods to round up the usual suspects (Mayor Phil Gordon has asked the feds to investigate these practices, which I hope they will do).

But this one is just weird.  Apparently Phoenix tax money is being used by Arpaio to train Honduran police, in a program that makes sense (from a Phoenix point of view) to no one.  Sheriff Joe watchers will enjoy his numerous nonsensical explanations, though the last one probably is the correct one.  For those outside of Phoenix, sit back and enjoy the weirdness -- its the only consolation we here in Arizona get for having the worst and most abusive sheriff in the country.

Explanation One:  Arpaio looks to small Latin American countries as models for his police force

Sheriff's officials told the county Board of Supervisors that the
Honduran National Police possess the "intelligence data, knowledge and
cultural experiences to benefit the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office."

Explanation Two:  We can't tell you, because it would endanger Sheriffs' lives (this is an Arpaio oldie but goodie):

discussing efforts in Honduras could endanger the lives of law-enforcement officers in both countries....revealing details could put lives at risk

Explanation Three:  Honduras supplied millions of photos for Arpaio's facial recognition software (yeah, I know non-Phoenicians, this is weird)

The sheriff's facial-recognition software program is supposed to be among the biggest beneficiaries of the Honduras engagement....When Arpaio was first confronted about the department's trips to
Honduras, he said the agency had received "millions" of photos from
Honduran officials.

Explanation Four:  Its a RICO thing, so we can't tell you (at least, it uses RICO funds)

The agency has spent more than $120,000 on Sheriff's Office employee
salaries in Honduras, and an additional $30,000 in RICO funds seized
from criminals. And some of the trips occurred during a time period
where the Sheriff's Office overspent its overtime budget by nearly $1
million.

Explanation Five:  We can't talk about it, because that would open up public officials to scrutiny for their actions:

The Sheriff's Office will not grant interviews to explain how and why
the program was started and what the benefits are to Maricopa County,
because officials say discussing the program fuels criticism

"Sweatshop" Wages

I have little patience for the campaign against American companies, particularly apparel companies, for operating "sweatshops" in other countries.  A bunch of American middle class protesters who have generally never been to the country involved complain that wages paid are too low.  Why too low?  Well, the only basis I can determine is that they are declare too low because the protesters involved would never take that $12 a day job themself.  Of course, the protesters have never wallowed in miserable poverty trying to live on $2 a day. As I wrote before:

Progressives do not like American factories appearing in third world
countries, paying locals wages progressives feel are too low, and
disrupting agrarian economies with which progressives were more
comfortable.  But these changes are all the sum of actions by
individuals, so it is illustrative to think about what is going on in
these countries at the individual level. 

One morning, a rice farmer in southeast Asia might faces a choice.
He can continue a life of brutal, back-breaking labor from dawn to dusk
for what is essentially subsistence earnings.  He can continue to see a
large number of his children die young from malnutrition and disease.
He can continue a lifestyle so static, so devoid of opportunity for
advancement, that it is nearly identical to the life led by his
ancestors in the same spot a thousand years ago.

Or, he can go to the local Nike factory, work long hours (but
certainly no longer than he worked in the field) for low pay (but
certainly more than he was making subsistence farming) and take a shot
at changing his life.  And you know what, many men (and women) in his
position choose the Nike factory.  And progressives hate this.  They
distrust this choice.  They distrust the change.  And, at its heart,
that is what globalization is all about - a deep seated conservatism
that distrusts the decision-making of individuals and fears change,
change that ironically might finally pull people out of untold
generations of utter poverty.

This week, with a hat tip to Cafe Hayek, I found this interesting new study by Powell and Skarbeck on wages at American plants in 3rd world nations.

 

We examined the apparel industry in 10 Asian and Latin American countries
often accused of having sweatshops and then we looked at 43 specific accusations
of unfair wages in 11 countries in the same regions. Our findings may seem
surprising. Not only were sweatshops superior to the dire alternatives
economists usually mentioned [such as working on subsistence farms], but they
often provided a better-than-average standard of living for their workers.

 

The apparel industry, which is often accused of unsafe working conditions and
poor wages, actually pays its foreign workers well enough for them to rise above
the poverty in their countries. While more than half of the population in most
of the countries we studied lived on less than $2 per day, in 90 percent of the
countries, working a 10-hour day in the apparel industry would lift a worker
above - often far above - that standard. For example, in Honduras, the site of
the infamous Kathy Lee Gifford sweatshop scandal, the average apparel worker
earns $13.10 per day, yet 44 percent of the country's population lives on less
than $2 per day.

Cafe Hayek concludes:

Powell's and Skarbek's lesson is straightforward and important. But it's a
lesson too often ignored by "activists" who would rather pose and prance as
moral crusaders than analyze situations in ways that might actually help people.
The lesson is summarized by what I call "The Economist's Question: "As
compared to what?"

In and of itself, situation A is neither good nor bad; it is good or bad only
in comparison with it's real alternatives.  This lesson is a hard one, perhaps
-- it's certainly an unromantic one -- but it's indispensable for sound
analysis.