From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.
Honduran Prison Fire Kills over 350
A fire at Comayagua prison in central Honduras killed over 350 people on Tuesday night. The origin of the fire is unclear, though Honduran press speculated a short-circuit was the cause. Authorities suspect inmates escaped during the blaze. It is the third major prison fire in Honduras in the last decade and one of the deadliest Latin American prison fires in the last quarter century. Just last month, a fire also broke out at a forced detention drug treatment center in Peru, killing 27.
The Legacy of Honduras’ Coup
NPR’s Weekend Edition broadcast a two-part series on the legacy of Honduras’ 2009 military coup that ousted then-President Manuel Zelaya from power. The series examines the effect of the coup on the country now, suggesting Honduras may owe its status as the world’s most violent country in part to that event. “If the president can be taken out of a country and have his rights taken away, without a trial or anything, then what becomes of your average citizen?” asks one Honduran.
Deposed Honduran President’s Wife Running for Office
Xiomara Castro, wife of former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, announced her candidacy for president of Honduras on February 11, reports Honduras’ La Tribuna. She will compete as a pre-candidate for the Popular Strength and Refoundation Party in November and would run in the 2013 presidential election. She pledged that, if elected, she would pursue constitutional reform. Her husband also pushed for such reforms before the military ousted him from power in 2009.
Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya announced yesterday that he would officially end his 30-year affiliation with the Partido Liberal (Liberal Party). Zelaya ran on the Partido Liberal ticket when he was elected president in 2006, but later accused the party’s leadership of having a hand in the military coup d’état that deposed him in 2009.
The coup was ordered to prevent Zelaya from seeking to change the constitution in order to run for another term as president. Still, Zelaya suspects his former party’s involvement. “We have renounced the party that committed the coup,” said the former president in an interview with Radio Globo referring to the Partido Liberal. In a press conference also on Monday, Zelaya went on to say that there will never be justice in Honduras over the coup and he called for the reform of the country’s two-party system, comprised of the Partido Liberal and the conservative Partido Nacional (National Party).
Last May, Zelaya signed an agreement brokered by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez that allowed him to legally return to Honduras for the first time since the coup. Following his return, Zelaya founded the Partido Libertad y Refundación (Liberty and Refounding Party – Libre) in August. Zelaya’s wife Xiomara Castro de Zelaya is likely to participate in Honduras’ primaries in November as Libre’s first presidential candidate.
Fame, even political fame, seems to depend more and more on your ability to grab the public fascination—even if it’s lack of respect—than any real attributes. Just the mere aura of media attention confers importance, talent and relevance now-a-days. Just ask the vacuous Paris Hilton, or the duly-elected president of Honduras, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, whose latest tactics indicate that more than resolving the constitutional crisis in a serious manner, he’d prefer to just be in the news. For whatever. Just today (Monday, September 21) Zelaya appeared suddenly in the Brazilian embassy claiming he had crossed mountains, rivers and the military-manned border to re-appear in Honduras to defy the government’s arrest order. And then he gave a friendly wave to supporters from the Brazilian embassy.
This isn’t helpful.
Sure the man was deposed in a coup. (Just a quick side note: as Mary O’Grady wrote in today’s Wall Street Journal, the Honduran constitution does allow for the Supreme Court to try a president and issue a warrant. What it clearly does not say is that it gives them the power to bundle him up and take him out of the country. It also implies that the trial would be transparent and under due process—neither of which was true in the rushed, closed-door “hearing” that was held preceding President Zelaya’s jammy-clad plane trip into exile. The U.S. constitution allows for an impeachment process; but once it has been completed and a president found guilty, it doesn’t allow for him to be sent into exile—most would agree that to be beyond the constitutional order.)
But his antics: first circling over the airport in a Venezuelan government plane, then the hokey pokey at the Nicaraguan/Honduras border, and now this demonstrate a craven need to keep himself in the public eye and to remind the world of his martyrdom, and, in some twisted way, even present himself as a credible politician.