lu: (Vox Populi)
Figured I'd make a quick post before going to bed, mostly because I wanted to keep this particularly disturbing piece of news for future reference: the first military coup of the 21st century in Latin America took place today, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

After spending the whole day reading tweets on the matter, watching BBC and CNN International, obsessively updating CNN en Español, El País, and La Prensa, I think I would sum up what happened like this:

Honduras has been living a rather problematic political crisis during President Manuel Zelaya's mandate. For while now, Mr Zelaya has been trying to hold a referendum that would allow him to change the constitution and run for a second term. Last week, the Supreme Court held that said referendum was inconstitucional, and the armed forces commander, Romeo Vazquez, stated that the military would not participate in the vote. Zelaya then fired Vazquez, but the act was also considered illegal by the Supreme Court.

Last Thursday, President Zelaya, along with a group of protesters, seized the ballots that were to be used on the referendum—which had been ordered confiscated by the prosecutor’s office and the electoral tribunal—from an air force installation.

And then all hell broke loose.

The vote was to take place today, but the President awoke to find his house surrounded by the military, and himself thrown on an air force plane with a one-way ticket to Costa Rica. During the course of the afternoon, Congress received an "official resignation letter" from the President, and proceeded to swear in Roberto Micheletti, head of Congress. Mr Zelaya, however, claims he has not and never will resign until his term ends.

The European Union, the UN, the OAS, the United States and several other countries have expressed deep concern over the situation, condemned the coup, and asked for Mr Zelaya to be reinstated as President and for the constitutional order to be restored. The OAS approved a resolution in which it asks for the unconditional return of Mr Zelaya, and emphatically states that it will not recognise the new government.

There are some who are saying that the arrest of the President was ordered by the Judiciary, and was therefore constitutional and justified, seeing that Mr Zelaya broke the law. The way I see it, there is nothing in a democracy that can allow the military to arrest a President and exile him from his own country. In any Latin American History textbook, that is called a military coup.

Latin America is still a region that is learning what it's like to live in a democracy. We still need to be taken by our hands and be patiently told that it's not OK to arbitrarily arrest someone—instead of remembering there is a thing called "due process of law" and another one called "human rights"—and put that person on a plane to a foreign country. Especially when said person is the constitutionally elected President.

Now, I don't care if Zelaya is a crazy-ass communist who dreams of staying in power forever and is best friends with Hugo Chávez and the Castro brothers. He could be a bloody homophobic for all I care; the man is still the representative of the people of Honduras and was elected to run the country until 2010. Therefore, unless there is a proper impeachment process, a forged letter of resignation will not do to constitutionally and democratically destitute him.

It takes time, patience and several mistakes to strengthen a democracy. On the other hand, only a few minutes are needed to tear it down. Unfortunately, this kind lesson remains hard to teach in our still-developing continent. Let's just hope the Honduran congress will come to its senses in the morning.

Human Rights Watch[er]

  • Oct. 28th, 2008 at 12:13 PM
lu: (Justice)
A couple of weeks ago my Inter-American Moot Court study group presented the simulation of the case Almonacid Arellano vs. Chile at the Law Department auditorium. There was a surprisingly high turnout, and apparently people managed to enjoy themselves. I was proud of our work, and very tired at the end of the afternoon. I decided, however, to stay in college a little bit more to watch a lecture that would be given by my Human Rights professor and some other members of the Academy.

After some talk about crime, torture, and impunity (along with its obvious relation to Human Rights), the lecturers asked whether people had questions. It was already late, there were only a few students left at the auditorium, and so a nice, cozy, discussion started. Eventually I raised my hand and posed a question.

"Do you think that we cold say that, if it was considered that the tortures and extrajudicial killings perpetrated by policemen happened in a systematic way, an International Court could say these were crimes against humanity?"

There was a Criminal Law professor there whom I didn't know, and, after answering a few questions, he looked into my eyes, and said:

"You. Based on your question, I can see you have an extraordinary faith in International Law. I wish I had that faith. Because, for me, it's absurd. I cannot believe that waiting for an International Court to solve issues is a solution."

I know that he was probably being condescending, and rather patronizing. But the look my Human Rights professor gave me right then was worth anything. There was also a smirk on her face, full of complicity and understanding, like she was proud of me for some reason, and wanted to say "been that, heard that". On that day, I didn't lose my faith in International Law, but strengthened it.

I remembered this story yesterday, after my Human Rights class. Another professor had given the class that day, and, after class, she and I started discussing the theory she had presented. After some time, she tapped me on the shoulder and said: "You know, it's great that Human Rights defenders like you are actually taking an interest on this."

I'm pretty sure she didn't know she was the first person ever to call me that. And yet, it was the first time, and God, did I feel great. A Human Rights defender is what I want to be, even though it may seem eccentric, and a bit quaint. After all, that's not usually a kid's response when asked what they want to be when they grow up. And, however, every day I am more and more certain that's what I want to work with, that's the one thing I can be really good at.

And an 8.5 out of 10.0 on my Human Rights exam will not convince me otherwise.

You like bowling, don't you, Montag?

If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. If the government is inefficient, topheavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel like they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. And they'll be happy, because facts of that sort don't change. Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.

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