On Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010 the Washington Post published another in its long series of editorials misrepresenting the situation in Latin America. We don’t think that ownership of a printing press entitles the Washington Post to tell deliberate lies. The editorial was published on the same day as 30 members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling on her to cut off military and police aid to Honduras, and to oppose its reentry into the Organization of American States, as long as democracy advocates and journalists continue to be murdered with impunity by the government that rose out of the June 28, 2009 coup. The editorial maliciously dares to compare favorably the situation in Honduras with that in neighboring Nicaragua. Below are talking points for letters-to-the-editor.
We urge people of good will to flood the Washington Post with letters holding them accountable for their lies. If your local newspaper republishes the Post editorial, we urge you to send your letter to the local paper as well. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Send your letter to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. The Post knows perfectly well that the non-binding referendum in Honduras that the coup leaders used as a pretext for the coup had nothing to do with overturning a constitutional ban on reelection. The referendum asked voters if they would like to have a question on the ballot to vote for or against forming a constitutional assembly to write a new constitution. The vote would have taken place on the day a new president was elected, so however people voted would have no affect on Zelaya’s presidency.
2. The Honduran constitution was written in the 1980s under the tutelage of US Ambassador John Negroponte, coordinator of the US’s illegal Contra war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. It is the only constitution in the world that makes it a crime to propose amending the constitution! On Sept. 30, 2009, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias called it “the worst in the world.”
3. The Washington Post supported, and continues to support, the coup in Honduras. It therefore has no credibility to speak about democracy and the rule of law anywhere else in the world. The most Post editors would admit to in the current editorial was that the army “overstepped legal bounds by deporting him.” That should be considered a pretty big “overstep” by anyone’s standards!
4. The Post editorial says that the coup-run presidential elections in 2009 were “recognized as constitutional, free and fair.” By who? There was no international observation. Even the coup government claims that only one million people voted, a claim challenged by Honduran democracy advocates. The National Front for Popular Resistance, on Sept. 15, 2010, released over 1.3 million signatures of Hondurans calling for a return to democracy and a constitutional assembly to “refound the State.”
5. The Washington Post editorial calls the OAS, which has refused to reinstate Honduras, “hyper-vigilant” in defense of the Democracy Clause adopted nine years ago. Hyper-vigilant? They should be praised for their vigilance given the continent’s long history of violent coups. Just since the Democracy Clause has been in effect Latin America has witnessed the failed 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the Feb. 29, 2004 coup by US Marines against Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide, the 2009 coup against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, and just over a week ago, an attempted coup against Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa.
6. The Post editorial then launches into paragraphs of disinformation about Nicaragua in a ludicrous attempt to claim that democracy is in greater danger there than under the coup elected government in Honduras. At the same time, the editors ignore manifold evidence of an attempted coup in Ecuador, dismissing it as a “dust-up.”
7. Post editors condemn Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega for successfully challenging the ban on reelection through the Supreme Court – exactly the same strategy that Oscar Arias employed which allowed him to run for reelection in Costa Rica. Given that reelection is permitted in the US, just exactly how is it a threat to democracy for Latin American countries to follow the same path?
8. Post editors go to great length to make a constitutional deadlock over appointments to the Nicaraguan Supreme Court, and other high offices, sound like a power grab by Ortega and the Sandinistas. In fact, opposition Supreme Court justices just last week returned to the Court, which they had been boycotting, by their own actions leaving it entirely in the hands of Sandinista justices.
9. The Post editorial ends by questioning why Brazilian President Lula and Argentine President Christina Fernando haven’t spoken out against the threat to democracy in Nicaragua when they’ve been outspoken advocates of democracy in Honduras. The answer is simple. There is no threat to democracy in Nicaragua. In Honduras, democracy advocates and journalists work daily in fear for their lives. Police and military attack peaceful demonstrations. Peasant farmers are driven from their land and murdered with impunity by rich landowners. There is no democracy in Honduras, and the elected leaders of the hemisphere know it, even if the Washington Post doesn’t.
Read for yourself the misinformed and misinforming text of the Washington Post Editorial “Nicaragua, Honduras and Hypocrisy”
TEXT OF THE WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL: Nicaragua, Honduras and hypocrisy
Wednesday, October 20, 2010 – LAST YEAR, leftist Honduran President Manuel Zelaya sought to stage an illegal referendum as part of a bid to overturn a constitutional ban on his reelection. The country’s supreme court ordered his arrest by the army, which then overstepped legal bounds by deporting him. Led by its leftists, the Organization of American States rushed to denounce the “coup” and expel Honduras. Despite subsequently holding a presidential election recognized as constitutional, free and fair, the country has not been readmitted to the regional forum.
OAS members signed a special charter nine years ago committing themselves to defend democracy; in Honduras’s case, they have been — to say the least — hyper-vigilant. But what of neighboring Nicaragua? There, President Daniel Ortega, who, like Mr. Zelaya is a leftist populist, has used blatantly illegal decrees, the manipulation of court rulings and mob violence by his supporters to clear the way for his reelection, even though it is explicitly prohibited by the constitution.
The reaction of the OAS? Utter silence. OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza rushed to validate a dubious claim by leftist Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa that a dust-up he had with protesting police on Sept. 30 amounted to a coup attempt. But Mr. Insulza had nothing to say about a ruling the same week by a self-styled supreme court, composed entirely of members of Mr. Ortega’s Sandinista movement, that ordered the electoral authority to accept him as a candidate.
Mr. Ortega’s assault on Nicaragua’s constitution makes both Mr. Zelaya and the Honduran army look timid. The former Marxist dictator lost four consecutive elections beginning in 1990 and has never received more than 38 percent of the vote. But he engineered a constitutional change that allowed his election by a plurality in 2006. When the Congress refused to overturn a ban on his reelection, he turned to the court, which issued an obviously political ruling last year.
This year the terms of two justices expired, raising the possibility that the ruling would not hold up. Mr. Ortega issued a decree extending their terms. When it was pointed out that this was unconstitutional — Congress must approve the appointment of judges — the regime reprinted the constitution during a summer recess and inserted a provision allowing the judges to remain in place. The expired judges, meanwhile, named seven other Sandinistas to places on their “court,” since the remaining judges refused to recognize them. It was that body that decreed that Mr. Ortega cannot be denied a place on the 2011 presidential ballot.
The Obama administration has condemned these manipulations. But what of the champions of democracy in Honduras, such as Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, or Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina? No comment. Which raises the question: Was it really democracy that they were defending in Honduras?