Manuel Zelaya: Our controvertial president

If I had to describe our current president, Manuel Zelaya, I would say he is an outgoing person, with a rural style. He is a man from the country, or wants to appear as such. He loves to wear Texan hat and boots, even with suit and tie. He loves to hear and sing the rural Mexican folk songs known as rancheras. His mustache is part of that ranchero outlook. That’s why Hugo Chavez calls him “Cowboy Commander”. His style of government is populist and authoritarian.

I compare Manuel Zelaya to George W. Bush in his relaxed demeanor. They can do or say the dumbest things, and you’ll always find people who love them. But unlike Bush, Zelaya is a self-styled leftist figure. His recent meeting with Fidel Castro consecrated him as part of the Latin American Left, with personalities like Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Rafael Correa and Daniel Ortega.

But Zelaya’s political party, the Liberal Party, is not so “liberal” after all. In the times of Cold War it played as a key ally of the U.S., back when there was another rural looking president: Roberto Suazo Cordova. That was in the eighties. In that time, there was an incipient democracy, and the militaries held much of the political de facto power. The U.S. ambassador from that time, John Negroponte, was known as the “proconsul from the Empire”. The human rights situation was delicate.

The objectives of political and economical development of the Honduran State were subordinated to the objectives of “national security” of the U.S.. Manuel Zelaya’s father, who had the same name as his son, collaborated with the militaries in a massacre of unsubordinated civilians at the place known as “Los Horcones”.

But things change, and with the new populists airs in Latin America, Zelaya joins the group. His rhetoric is even anti-American at times, but as he uses covered references and diplomatic language, he can always deny he is anti-American.

He rose to power with the promise of dropping the local oil prices, and he spent the first two years of government in a failed public tender project. The irony is that oil international prices began to drop due to the current economic recession in the U.S., and not to his presidential efforts. I consider this as big failure of his government, but people here rarely notice that.

Zelaya has everybody entertained with his controversial measures and sayings in a weekly basis. When he decided to incorporate Honduras to ALBA, the alternative of Hugo Chavez to the free trade scheme proposed by the U.S., he lifted a lot of opposition.

The same happened when he recently raised the minimum wage in a disproportionate way. He didn’t take heed of the warnings of coming unemployment.

Zelaya is not much given to dialogue. He prefers to polarize public opinion, and to impose his policies with weak populist arguments.

I think this government is a disaster, and wait anxiously the end of this administration. But it is rumored he wants to stay in power, and in order to do that he plans to reform the present Constitution through a referendum. If that’s true, I don’t think he’ll get away with it. It’s just another one of his silly ideas destined to failure.

25 thoughts on “Manuel Zelaya: Our controvertial president

  1. La Gringa

    Thanks. It’s interesting to read your overview. You had me worried in that last article. 😉

  2. Anonymous

    you must be one of the rich folks of honduras who only cares about there own well being and not of the poor class. Zelaya is not perfect but he cares about the poor class and that counts. Who has been a better president to honduras? If you can come up with an answer please post it up.Chavez cares aboout the poor which makes him a good president, the voting majority in venezuela has proven that over the years.

  3. La Gringa

    I would say that Ardegas is one of those intelligent folks in Honduras who analyzes what he reads and hears rather than believing all the propaganda from the political parties.

    Anon, if you look at the statistics, you’ll see that crime has increased tremendously, poverty has increased, corruption has increased, the majority of the aid money has not reached the poor, the economy is going down, more people are out of work, etc. etc. etc. It’s not a pretty picture.

  4. Anonymous

    Anon

    You sre just part of those in the eternal fight , ¨the haves and the have nots ¨. It´s not about Mel caring about the poor , it´s really Mel taking advantage of their low education and lack of understanding. He is trying to buy these people to become more powerful .

    Think for a moment , all those ¨poor¨would have no jobs if factories (belonging to the ¨rich¨ )would close and look for more suitable working environments.

    And really, I don´t think he is that great of a guy after trying to show that he can do whatever he wants with the law and the constitution of the country. I think that is the greatest example of how bad he takes advantage of the power and the position given to him.

  5. La Gringa

    “It´s not about Mel caring about the poor , it´s really Mel taking advantage of their low education and lack of understanding. He is trying to buy these people to become more powerful .”

    I agree with that assessment. If Mel cared about the poor, why didn’t he more for them in the first 3 years of his administration?

  6. HenderBalz

    Great Blog…found it while researching info for my blog:
    http://www.henderbalz.wordpress.com.
    An account of our experiences traveling and living abroad.
    Literally almost ran into “Mel” at Carnival on Saturday and wanted to put links up for those reading my blog to learn more about the president in the country where my husband and I are living for 14 months. Love your other articles as well…very informative for this uninformed not sure what to believe expat. I even like the comments!

  7. Ardegas

    That’s great, Henderbalz. I’m glad this humble blog was of help to you.

  8. JBM 7.83

    Good Post! This is just a plain democracy in action. You are just putting your point of views in this blog.
    Nice Work. We in the Philippines wants this to happen in our present government leaders.

  9. quentinre

    Many thanks for your blog post on President Zelaya. Obviously I came across this as I try to better understand the context of the military coup. I've read some of your other entries also, and they were also very helpful.

    Your English blogging is great, and I am appreciative that you maintain this blog in addition to your Spanish one. Like you said, you reach that larger audience.

    I would like to read some about your thoughts on Christianity–in order to better understand your love-hate relationship with it.

  10. Anonymous

    The fact that the European Union, the U.S. and Lating American countries have not accepted this the facto government tells you a lot.

    Honduras poverty,and crime did not start with Mel, let's face it, in Central America there are many rogue countries, and crime will not stop until the demand for drugs is controlled or eliminated.

    This coup is not about left or right or about Chavez or Fidel Castro, instead this is about money and greed and lots of it, if not please just inquire about the dealings of Hundutel. The same person behind the flawed coup in Venezuela, namely Otto Reich, is also behind this one along with many businessmen who have vested interests into continuing opressing and exploiting the people of Honduras.

    Otto Reich had an financial interest into singing a new contract with Hondutel which Mel oppossed back in April, 2009, also, Mr. Reich a Cuban American obssessed with Fidel Castro was the main critic of the motion of the OAS to bring back Cuba into their membership.

    This savage coup makes us look like the typical 'banana country' and we joined Haiti as the other country in the hemisphere with a de facto government.

    The referendum Mel was proposing is the same kind of referendum put forward by the Colombian president Uribe who is neither a friend of Chaver nor Castro.

    Please use your heads, inform yourselves, read, learn, and not just repeat the garbage you hear in the news.

  11. Anonymous

    Anon, great job and thanks for all the info you gave us here about otto reich and the the referendum uribe did few months ago to stay in power with the giants media sayin not much about.

    Hope one day we the latinos will understand that is better to have a "criollo empire" that a one foreigner

  12. Anonymous

    Thanks Anon. That is the only way we all can make intelligent decisions by being informed.

    For instance, I do not see anyone mentionning the fact that President Zelaya increased the minimum wage. This action did not go very well with the oligarchy in Honduras. This action benefits the working class, and as we know, that is the majority of Hondurans. Of course uninformed people will only use slogans to describe Zelaya's administration.

    The military needs to go back to the barracks, many of the military involved in this coup are people who committed human right abuses back in the 80's. Is that what we expect from the people who are suppossed to protect us? also, why do we even have tanks in Honduras? who would want to invade us or Haiti? Instead tanks are used to appease those who are discontent with the military's actions who protect the interest of the wealthy: Maduro, Canahuati, Ferrari, Facusse and others, we all know who they are.

    We need 'true' Hondurans running the country, this is not a textile store where you let the rich sell to the poor any way they want to.

  13. Anonymous

    in the end all that matters really is that the world community will not allow this type of military abuse to continue, a military coup in the 21st century is unacceptable and embarrassing to our generation. No matter if you think he deserves to continue to rule Honduras, President Zelaya will return, forcefully or not he will return. As a native Honduras having lived there most of my life I would advised most of you who oppose Zelaya to do your research and put yourselves in the shoes of these people, most of them can barely afford to eat at times, and this man has given them hope. Oh and this comment by Anon-it´s really Mel taking advantage of their low education and lack of understanding. really demonstrates your ignorance and YOUR lack of understanding about the situation. Some of us might have low education but some of us have the capability to understand a lot more than you might think and might be fighting back whether it is protesting in the streets or defending our leader in blogs against ignorant people such as yourself.

  14. Ardegas

    The fact that the European Union, the U.S. and Lating American countries have not accepted this the facto government tells you a lot.

    No, it doesn't tell me a damn thing. They know nothing of current political weather of Honduras. I can tell. I live here.

    This coup is not about left or right or about Chavez or Fidel Castro, instead this is about money and greed and lots of it, if not please just inquire about the dealings of Hundutel.

    This is not a coup. Wake up. There's a civil government fully functional here. Chavez provided electoral material for the so called poll Zelaya illegally wanted to impose. Chavez gave financial help directly to Zelaya. There was no national budget. This government was a mess. Hondutel situation is been handled right now by Public Ministry.

    The same person behind the flawed coup in Venezuela, namely Otto Reich, is also behind this one along with many businessmen who have vested interests into continuing opressing and exploiting the people of Honduras.

    Otto Reich? Interesting, do you have any shred of evidence? I doubt it. Are you aware all the legal institutions and Congress denounced Zelaya? Did Otto Reich pay for that?. Where does he get the money? How will he get his money back?

    This savage coup makes us look like the typical 'banana country' and we joined Haiti as the other country in the hemisphere with a de facto government.

    I doubt you're Honduran. You look so ignorant of widely known current events. You can't compare Haiti with Honduras. And 'a savage coup' did not happen here. This constitutional succession was relatively peaceful and most people support it.

    Hope one day we the latinos will understand that is better to have a "criollo empire" that a one foreigner.

    A "criollo empire" ? America supports Zelaya. It looks like Obama is on the side of Chavez. How is that "criollo"?

    I don't want to be a slave of Hugo Chavez. I don't want to be a slave of Zelaya either, as Honduran he may be.

  15. Ardegas

    For instance, I do not see anyone mentionning the fact that President Zelaya increased the minimum wage. This action did not go very well with the oligarchy in Honduras. This action benefits the working class, and as we know, that is the majority of Hondurans. Of course uninformed people will only use slogans to describe Zelaya's administration.

    Yeah. Slogans like 'coup d'Etat' are very informative… Not.

    I mentioned minimum wage in the main article. It looks you didn't even read it. Are you aware disproportionate raise of minimum wage produces unemployment? How does that help the poor?

    in the end all that matters really is that the world community will not allow this type of military abuse to continue, a military coup in the 21st century is unacceptable and embarrassing to our generation. No matter if you think he deserves to continue to rule Honduras, President Zelaya will return, forcefully or not he will return. As a native Honduras having lived there most of my life I would advised most of you who oppose Zelaya to do your research and put yourselves in the shoes of these people, most of them can barely afford to eat at times, and this man has given them hope. Oh and this comment by Anon-it´s really Mel taking advantage of their low education and lack of understanding. really demonstrates your ignorance and YOUR lack of understanding about the situation. Some of us might have low education but some of us have the capability to understand a lot more than you might think and might be fighting back whether it is protesting in the streets or defending our leader in blogs against ignorant people such as yourself.

    This is not a military coup. Roberto Micheletti, former president of the Congress is now president of the Republic. Get your facts straight.

    If Zelaya returns home he will be captured and tried. Honduras will be respected by international community.

    Zelaya did not help the poor, on the contrary, he abandoned public administration to persue his dream of continuism.

    I live in this country. I know what I am talking about. I doubt you do. I don't believe for a moment you are poor. Poor people here don't have internet connection, or can't even read.
    You are just a clumsy leftist disinformator.

    Roberto Micheletti is widely supported. Zelaya's confrontational attitudes left him alone, even his own party abandoned him, he is only supported by a tiny minority of radicals.

  16. Anonymous

    "Poor people here don't have internet connection, or can't even read."

    I doubt you know many poor people.

    From Weisbrot:

    "Supporters of the coup argue that the president violated the law by attempting to go ahead with the referendum after the supreme court ruled against it. This is a legal question. It may be true, or it may be that the supreme court had no legal basis for its ruling. But it is irrelevant to the what has happened. The military is not the arbiter of a constitutional dispute between the various branches of government.

    This is especially true in this case, in that the proposed referendum was a non-binding and merely consultative plebiscite. It would not have changed any law nor affected the structure of power. It was merely a poll of the electorate.

    Therefore,the military cannot claim that it acted to prevent any irreparable harm. This is a military coup carried out for political purposes"

  17. Anonymous

    Otto Reich? Interesting, do you have any shred of evidence? I doubt it. Are you aware all the legal institutions and Congress denounced Zelaya? Did Otto Reich pay for that?. Where does he get the money? How will he get his money back?

    Please read the Arcadia Foundation website and perhaps you will learn a bit about Otto Reich and his croonies

    Unfortunately, we are right next to Haiti in every way, if you do not believe it, please check world statistics, and now we join Haiti again when acting like savages. A coup d'etat is defined as removing a democratically elected government by military force, and this is what happened here, now if you want to keep your head in the sand, go ahead!!!

    I am Honduran but I also have had the benefit of living in many parts of the world to be able to have some self criticism about our poor conditions!!!

  18. Anonymous

    Thank you so much to the previous person for sharing your opinions based on facts and for sharing some of your sources.
    The abuse of power from the de Facto government have reached in-tolerating levels and many Hondurans are still denying that there was a coup.
    We all Hondurans need to be more educated about how things are run in our country and practice our right of civic participation.
    We all have been too passive and have let the corrupts we have in our government walk over us.

  19. SLH

    Given the backdrop of political turmoil and civil unrest in Honduras, I wanted to educate myself on the presidency of Manuel Zelaya and Honduran public opinion. This blog post and consequent comments were very interesting, particularly because I got to hear 'both sides' of the story.

    In my humble opinion, the debate on the quality of the Zelaya presidency is subjective. It cannot be said with certainty that he has an unblemished administrative record, nor can it be said that he had led the country into a tumultuous socio-economic crisis.

    The real issue, on the contrary, is the manner in which action was taken to remove the president. What is more alarming is that this action was backed by the judiciary and legislature of Honduras. In this day and age, forcing a democratically elected head of state to leave the country at gunpoint cannot be the solution to internal political discord. Legal instruments could have been used by the opposition or an early election could have been declared. Unfortunately, such a move by the 'de facto' government has not only created a wave of international sympathy for 'Mel' and put international pressure on Honduras (removal of diplomatic representatives, reduction of aid and possibility of adverse trade treaties), but has also caused social unrest and violent protest. At the end of the day there is only one loser in this struggle for power and political control: the common man.

  20. Ardegas

    The military is not the arbiter of a constitutional dispute between the various branches of government.

    It's true, the military did not act as arbiters of branches of government here. Supreme Court gave an arrest warrant, Congress dismissed the President. It was not the military. Get your facts straight.

    Therefore,the military cannot claim that it acted to prevent any irreparable harm.

    It acted to prevent bloodbath. Death is irreparable.

    This is a military coup carried out for political purposes.

    If there was a coup, it was not a military coup. It was a political one, asisted by the military. This is not my opinion, it is a fact.

  21. Ardegas

    I asked for Otto Reich's involvement in this "coup". And you answered:

    Please read the Arcadia Foundation website and perhaps you will learn a bit about Otto Reich and his croonies

    This is not an answer. I can send you to read Honduran newspapers also, because you seem to ignore basic things of Honduras' current situation.

    This was not "a savage coup". If it was a coup at all, it was a peacefull one.

    A coup d'etat is defined as removing a democratically elected government by military force

    Your definition is wrong. The military can act legitimatelly to preserve the law against a criminal President.

    Another guy said:

    The abuse of power from the de Facto government have reached in-tolerating levels and many Hondurans are still denying that there was a coup.

    This is wrong. There is no abuse of power in the current government. Whether you think is a de facto or not, the police and military have the duty to preserve the necessary order.

    We all have been too passive and have let the corrupts we have in our government walk over us.

    Yeah, that's what happened during Zelaya's term, he walked all over us. But we reached a limit, and he had to leave.

  22. Ardegas

    In my humble opinion, the debate on the quality of the Zelaya presidency is subjective. It cannot be said with certainty that he has an unblemished administrative record, nor can it be said that he had led the country into a tumultuous socio-economic crisis.

    It's easy to say this from the comfort of a first world country. But it's not so easy here. We need to decide our destiny, because we will be the ones bearing the consecuences.

    And yes, it can be proven we reached a limit with Zelaya. We should have acted upon before. We couldn't wait with our arms crossed watching our country beeing destroyed by this man in order to please some fine men´s sensitivities from another countries.

    In this day and age, forcing a democratically elected head of state to leave the country at gunpoint cannot be the solution to internal political discord.

    The law needs to be enforced by the gun even in these days. You should'nt be shocked by this fact, it happens all the time.

    Legal instruments could have been used by the opposition or an early election could have been declared.

    You don't know Honduras's situation, you don't know what was possible. Zelaya himself considered himself above the law, he was really a de facto ruler, not accountable by law.

    The electoral process was starving from finances, because this guy obviously wanted to stay. There was no way he would have declare early elections.

    Yes, a trial was theoretically the best option, but… the situation in the field dictated otherwise.

    We know international community didn't like it, but we have to decide for ourselves. We are ready to face the consecuences.

  23. catracha

    I want to thank you Ardennes, for placing your comments and clarifying a few other things, I like you have the same opinion on Zelaya being a hypocrite, and I grew up poor, it is not about that is about opening your eyes to what this person wants to do with Honduras. In one of his interviews he said he didn't know why Hondurans were so against his friendship with chavez and castro, because he was also friends with Obama., like we are stupid and don't know that chavez and fidel are so against to anything that has to do with USA, if he wanted peace he should have acted peacefully when he decided to let go of the chief commander of the honduras army, why didn't he bring him to supreme court, like he is asking for Honduras to do with him. I am happy that he is out of the country, not happy about how it happened, nobody deserves to be forced at gun point, but i only think he brought it on himself. I am only saddened, because grown men can't come to a solution and are acting like little children when they want the other's toys. and that now the whole world knows how corrupt and ununified is my country.

  24. Cory M

    I see several problems with the way that this debate is being conducted. I do not even dare to offer up my opinion, for fear of retaliation with ad hominum arguments. What we are dealing with here is a highly sensitive issue. The individuals that fall on the two sides of this hold fundamentally contradicting viewpoints: on the one hand agreeing that the coup was legitimate, and on the other hand condemning it.

    There are a lot of different factors in play in the formation of these opinions, and no doubt the life experiences of each individual important contributors. What would be interesting would be a discussion as to the repercussions of using the military, for the moment leaving Zelaya's legacy out of consideration. Look at where these events have left us. They have polarized the country, just as they have polarized this discussion. Individuals of each side have claimed that the other is not truly Honduran, simply because of the viewpoint they espouse. What sort of argument is this? It seeks to make whatever sources they have illegitimate, to marginalize their very opinion. Whether or not an individual is Honduran does not mean that they do or do not understand the crisis better. An individual could live in the heart of Tegucigalpa and still walk about in a fog, distanced from reality. Saying that someone has never been poor does not mean they do not understand poverty.

    Regardless of opinions on Zelaya himself, I see that the actions of the Supreme Court, the Congress, and the military, (even if "legitimate", though this point is debatable), were wrong in the sense that they have caused polarization among Hondurans – to the point that those of one side do not even respect the ability of the other to express themselves.

  25. Marianna

    Dear Born in Honduras,

    Greetings from Houston, TX, USA. My name is Marianna Gurtovnik. I am writing to you after having read your March 21, 2009 blog post about Manuel Zelaya.

    I write a foreign affairs blog, Look Who's Talking, and this week, I discuss Manuel Zelaya's story as well:

    http://www.mantlethought.org/content/indomitable-manuel-zelaya

    My analysis focuses on the reasons why Mr. Zelaya's deposition has stirred up commotion at the Organization of the American States, and why the Obama Administration worked so hard to bring Mr. Zelaya back to office.

    I would like to hear from you, so please send your comments, or post them directly in the blog.

    Thank you!
    Marianna

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