Friday, July 8, 2011

Honduran Truth and Reconciliation Commission Releases its Final Report

After 14 months of investigation, the Honduran Commission of Truth and Reconciliation (Comisión de la Verdad y la Reconciliación - CVR) presented its final report in Tegucigalpa yesterday in a ceremony attended by OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza. While the report, entitled “So the Facts Will not Be Repeated,” offers several insights into the 2009 constitutional crisis, its most important finding was that the proceedings of June 28 did in fact constitute a coup d’état, making the government of Roberto Micheletti illegal by definition. According to a transcript of the report’s summary published in La Tribuna, the CVR also found that President Manuel Zelaya’s “letter of resignation” was a forgery, as he claimed, and held that the Honduran Congress has no power to remove a sitting head of state, much less to name his replacement.

However, the CVR placed at least partial blame for the crisis on Zelaya himself, saying that his attempts to hold a constitutional referendum amounted to an intrusion on the judicial and legislative branches of the Honduran government. Although the CVR found that the elections of 2009 were legitimate and constitutional, it characterized the events of that year as a broad failure on the part of political parties and civil society organizations to coordinate effective mediation of the conflict, due mostly to “their involvement and affiliation with the opposing actors.”

The report concludes with more than 80 recommendations to a diverse array of actors, divided into eight sections concerning the constitution, human rights, corruption, strengthening the democratic rule of law, electoral politics, international actors, the media, and remembrance.  

As El Heraldo notes, current President Porfirio Lobo has promised to comply with all of the the CVR’s recommendations, including the investigation of human rights abuses that occurred both during and after the crisis. The report found that 20 people had been killed in the repression following the coup, 12 of whom were killed by police and military forces "through disproportionate use of their firearms as well as toxic gases," and eight others who were apparently targeted by state agents or “other perpetrators apparently serving the state policy of repression. " Zelaya, for his part, applauded the Commission’s work but rejected any responsibility for the coup, telling AFP "I’ve never violated any laws in my life."

It should be noted, however, that despite the report’s aims to provide truth and reconciliation to the Honduran public, ten percent of the nearly 1,500 page long report was declared too sensitive to be released, and has apparently been sent to a secret archive in Canada, which is sure to fuel further speculation over external involvement in the coup.

News Briefs

·         Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denied widespread rumors yesterday that he was on the verge of rearranging his cabinet, emphasizing his support for all of his ministers including Vice President Elias Jaua, who some have said is becoming increasingly isolated from the Venezuelan leader. The Wall Street Journal says he also postponed retirement for some members of country’s military command. The move comes one day after El Mundo reported he would replace Jaua with Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and Defense Minister Carlos Mata Figueroa with General-in-Chief Henry Rangel Silva. Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post, Chavez is in the process of analyzing his inner circle in the hopes of picking a potential successor.

·         A Mexican judge has convicted four men in the notorious January 2010 “Villa Salvarcar massacre” that killed more than a dozen teenagers at a birthday party in Ciudad Juarez, AP reports. The article notes that that the trials were conducted orally, which is a relatively rare occurrence in Mexico’s rusty judicial system.

·         Just the Fact’s Adam Isaacson takes a look at the Mexican government’s overall strategy in conducting the war on drugs, especially regarding the Sinaloa and Zetas cartels, Mexico’s most powerful and flashy criminal groups, respectively. While the government has repeatedly denied accusations that it favors the former, it seems that it is focusing efforts on the latter. InSight Crime’s Hannah Stone has more on the accusations of favoring the Sinaloans.

·         In the wake of two corruption scandals, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff is facing an uphill battle within her ruling coalition. The LA Times reports on the implications that the resignation of Transportation Minister Alfredo Nascimento will have on her presidency.

·         The Guardian sheds light on the Brazilian government’s efforts to provide protection to at least 131 environmental activists, rural leaders and human rights defenders in the Amazon, in the wake of the recent assassinations in the region.

·         Former Brazilian presidential candidate Marina Silva has announced she’s leaving Brazil’s Green Party over complaints that the party has lost its “political vision.” Although she is expected to run for office again in 2014, AP says she gave no hint of that in yesterday’s announcement.

·         In a 5-to-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay the execution of a Mexican citizen sentenced to death in Texas, despite objections from the Obama administration, the New York Times reports.

·         Upon returning to Peru after a successful visit to Washington, Peruvian President-elect Ollanta Humala is facing questions about a trip his brother made to Russia, where he is suspected of negotiating a arrangements an investment deal relating to natural gas production, according to Peru21 and AFP.

·         Prensa Libre reports the daughter of Guatemalan election frontrunner Otto Perez Molina shot an armed municipal transit police officer, who remains in critical condition. Meanwhile, an appeals court has suspended the ruling which prevented Perez’s rival, Sandra Torres, from running, potentially breathing new life into her campaign.

·         Al Jazeera English  highlights recent developments made in prosecuting sexual violence perpetrated by the Argentine dictatorship.

·         The Senate Finance Committee voted on Thursday to approve a draft version of the Colombia FTA, a development which Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos approved, according to Colombia Reports. Meanwhile, 24 U.S. congressmen have signed a letter drafted by Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) calling for guarantees to both indigenous people and Afro-Colombians in the agreement. The letter, sent to President Obama yesterday, calls on Obama not tolerate “economic inequality or persistent violence against Afro-Colombians and indigenous people.”