Monday, November 30, 2009

OPINION - Honduran Election Result / Brazil Concern

As promised in my post yesterday, I am going to discuss the results of yesterday's Honduran election. Here are the facts:

a) The winner was Porfirio Lobo, of the opposition National Party of Honduras. Mr. Lobo won by a large margin with approximately 56% of the vote. Note: Zelaya won the previous Presidential election with 49.9% of the vote.

b) Zelaya's bid to have voters boycott the election was broadly rejected by voters, with voter turnout estimated at 60%. Note: Voter turnout from the previous vote in 2005, when Zelaya was elected was significantly lower at 46%.

c) As of this post, there is no evidence of irregularities or vote rigging. General opinion is that this election was free and fair.

d) Latin American Response so far: Columbia, Costa Rica, Panama & Peru have said they will recognize the vote. The US has also said it will accept the vote. Rejectors of the vote: Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador & Bolivia.

The statistics above speak volumes. This voter turnout signals that the Honduran public, the most important constituency here, has not stayed away from the polls in protest. They have blatantly ignored Zelaya's Chavez backed campaign to not participate. The margin of victory illustrates they have given the President an exceptionally strong mandate to govern. It greatly pleases me that the Honduran public has openly participated in this process and validated my feeling that the interim government did not commit a gross crime as was implied.

I have not done any detailed research but to my knowledge I do not know of a military coup (as this has been labelled) where an election was organized and held within 6 months by the perpetrators. Not only that, the interim leader lost and openly stepped down.

Now, on the Latin American response: I commend the countries that have immediately recognized the vote. It should be noted that prior to the election, Costa Rica made it clear it would only recognize the vote if it was confident that the vote was free and fair.

Now on the rejectors: Obviously Chavez of Venezuela and his two lackeys, Morales of Bolivia and Correa of Ecuador immediately rejected the vote. This is no surprise. Argentina: This one I will not pass comment on as this governments' issues are deep and will require a full post to explain. This leaves the one country I want to focus on: Brazil.

President Lula da Silva of Brazil is starting to really concern me. This man is leading one of the fastest growing economies in the world. With the success comes responsibility for leadership and stability. He has to move on from protesting like a university student trying to find himself. His strong vocal opposition to the result of this vote today and his recent hospitality to the leader of Iran frightens me greatly. Lula has embraced a leader who is part of a regime that achieved power by blatantly rigging elections, then viciously repressing peaceful demonstrations with clubs, arrests and torture. Now Lula has decided to take a principled stand against a country that has endorsed the election of an opposition party in what appears to be a free and decisive vote. Is something wrong here or am I just missing something?? Please help. My fear here is the Brazilian leaders' behaviour is starting to fall into the pattern of taking on the west. I am hoping this is just a temporary "growing up phase" and not indicative of the dangerous paths of Venezuela, Nicaragua and others. I hope the Brazilian democracy is not under threat. Lets hope the rapid increase in overall prosperity of the Brazilian people due to stellar economic growth will result in a desire by the Brazilian people to be a good standing member of the global community. There is no better way for them to do this than showing Mr. Lula the door in the next general election.

I would very much like to know your opinions on this matter. Feel free to leave a comment below.


Aloísio da Cidade said...

Hi, found your article around and decided to respond to your appeal to know reader's opinion.
I disagree mostly in every one of your analysis.. :-(
Firstly, the number analysis is very shallow. Here's a different approach, with the same numbers as you figured (i have not made any further research) if you consider, for one side, the polarization of the elections, if on Zelaya's election he had 49,9% of the 60% of the voters, that means almost 30% were supporters for zelaya. Considering that you said there was an increase of 14%, that means that almost 50% of the supporters of Zelaya have agreed to abstain the vote. It seems like a very representative number to me, if you consider many governants don't have 50% support on the population by the end of their mandate, and considering the whole crisis, the disconfort which is to fight the problem instead of just let it go and vote... Also, considering the brainwash that has been carried out since the coup by the media in Honduras (every single critic has been shut out, arrested or worse by the military coup).
I believe Lula is coherent and I think you have not been following him thoroughly for his serious critics say exactly the opposite as you state: he has been too conservative.
I believe you might have one extra factor that makes it more difficult for you to get a feeling of this issue, and for most US citizens as well: assuming you are canadian, you haven't lived a dictatorship or the consequences of it, which is what the people of Honduras are having to endure now, what makes absolutely inacceptable to endorse the political maneuvers. Lula, for example, was encarcerated for being a worksmen leader, when his mother died, Chile had 10.000 people killed, Argentina, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, so many countries have been through this process in Latin America, it is not possible that the international community accepts it.
It is like to accept neonazism, something which we had a consensed agreement based on Human Rights, just because there are a couple of big US corporations whose economic interests will be better attended by Porfirio Lobo.
Get my point?

World Affairs Guy said...

Aloísio: Firstly, thank you very much for your comment and opinion. One of my purposes here is to encourage all opinions, especially dissenting ones as long as they are civil, free of profanities and don't promote racial hatred.

I will now tackle your points one by one:

Your interpretation of my numbers is incorrect. When Zelaya won, voter turnout was 46%. This week's election had 60% voter turnout. That means a 14% Increase in eligible voters. I believe your analysis assumed a 14% decrease in voter turnout. With that corrected, lets assume your assumption of half of voters who voted for Zelaya in 2005 abstained in protest; that would represent 11.5% of eligible voter abstention rate (Zelaya had 49.9% of votes, 46% voter turnout). That implies 88.5% did not abstain or protest. That is a number I would hang my hat on any day.

Your point on Lula contemplates the premise of my analysis being conservatism vs. socialism. This premise of my analysis on Lula was questioning his support of democracy vs. dictatorship. Your comment has not addressed why it is acceptable for Lula to welcome Ahmadinejad with open arms and then chastise a government elected with over half the popular vote?

Your final comments attempt to personalize this debate. My guess is your reason for doing this due to to the lack of a supportable position. I am Canadian, I have not lived through a dictatorship, nor do I ever want to. I am quite familiar with historic Latin American regimes such as those led by Pinochet, Duarte and the Juntas in Argentina. They sicken me greatly and I believe we agree on that fact. My fierce opposition to dictatorship fuels my opinion on this election. Why do you think Zelaya wanted to extended presidential terms...because he didn't want to give up power. Zelaya was egged on by Chavez as a change in leader could result in Honduras' withdrawal from Chavez's Boliverian Alternative.

Regarding your statement of Lula's incarceration and mistreatment, it strengthens my question of how he can openly engage the leader of one the most vile, dictatorial regimes in the world, Iran. They institute regular incarceration, torture and forced confessions. If he is about freedom, he must be consistent.

I take this quote from the Wall Street Journal, which I believe says it all, "the big regional story for 2009 will be how tiny Honduras managed to beat back the colonial aspirations of its most powerful neighbors and preserve its constitution"
The success of tiny Honduras to successfully preserve its constitution and democracy against the colonial aspirations of its most powerful neighbours.

Aloísio da Cidade said...

Thanks for your response!
I'll try to address what is within my reach or understanding. I really got the numbers the other way, that is probably because we have different sources - and I misunderstood the word 'turnout' which I thought stood for absence/rejection/not voting. Reuters and media news corporations are aligned with the coup, and there are many underground and alternative sources in Twitter and blogs to deny those numbers. The Hondurian resistance claim, actually, that the absence was over 65% and in some regions up to 80%. Of course if the media groups are not interested in those numbers they will not publish and will imediately accept others, like the ones you've used to develop your argument.
I am sorry I cannot mention or debate the Iran case, since I feel like I am absolutely ignorant on Iran matters. Moreover, after having the privilege of having visited special countries like Tibet and India, so far off from what we can imagine by the books, TV or so, I really hesitate on speaking about places with such different cultural, spiritual, historical backgrounds. I've never even met a citizen from that place, and I've learned a long time ago, as I insist over and over, not to materialize my convictions over massmedia sources, like Reuters and so. That means I will not address your comparison (which points exactly the same as most right wing media criticism with Lula at this moment).
I am sorry if my sayings on your personal aspects made you feel like I was personalizing the debate, that was not my intention. I'll try to explain: I strongly believe that experience and human interaction bring a lot of insights, maybe not so nice as what books and newspapers say, but you feel the empathy, for instance with poorness, hunger, thirst, anger, injustice, prejudice.. things that we think we know as 'scholars', but maybe we don't.. until we truly experience it. It is different to read on history, cold books about torture during dictatorship and having lunch with a woman whose 18 year-old daughter had a bomb implanted on her backpack and exploded on the way back home from school during the 70s just because she dated the leader of the student movement during chilean dictatorship. I hope it makes it clear to the readers ;-)
Back to Zelaya: I'd be more careful when stating what exactly led to the military intervention, the regular analysis are very partial and try to legitimate what cannot be. Again: depends on where you get your info. Besides, his pledge was to vote for the possibility of putting up the choice for a constitution ammendment (< not sure if this is the word). That means that he could NOT, i repeat: he could not be reelected, that was not his pledge. That is counter-propaganda. His proposition would be useful for the next president, that could as well have been from opposition. Come on... it was a scape goat.. just a lame excuse, there had been a complot being worked out for a long time, as it has been the history of Latin America (and other parts too).
I guess the last thing I can add is that I really wished that your WSJ quote would become true regarding the worst of all the neighbours: ths US Corporations (fruits, energy and others, as usual) represented by its government. That is the real colonialist threat, or better still, the neocolonialism reality. The real fight all over latin america is over its real sovereignity, authonomy and cultural and ideological independence from the northern hemisphere, notoriously Spain, France and others from Europe and the omnipresent USA.

World Affairs Guy said...

Thank you for you post Aloisio. Engaging in this type of debate in your second language is very impressive, no worries on any misunderstandings. As before here is my retort to your points:

"Reuters and media news corporations are aligned with the coup" - I am sorry but these types of arguments carry no weight with me. While I acknowledge these media corporations do sometimes have bias in their reporting, when it comes to publishing actual figures, the risk of viewer loss due to publishing inaccurate data is far too great! These organizations are open to scrutiny (more so with the advent of social media) and cannot afford to have their reputations tarnished by using false data to support one side. (Remember: Dan Rather's career was destroyed when he aired an inaccurate story on George Bush's military service record). Also, corporations are driven by profit and the reputation destruction from inaccurate reporting would negatively impact both profit and share price. On the other hand, your so called "underground sources" have nothing to loose and only exist for propaganda purposes. Given those two scenarios I would take Reuters and established news agencies over these sources any day.

You also keep using the word "coup". A coup implies the military takes power. In this instance the military never had taken charge of the government. The military was only acting on a supreme court order to defend the rule of law and the constitution.

On Iran you said, "having the privilege of having visited special countries like Tibet and India, so far off from what we can imagine by the books, TV or so, I really hesitate on speaking about places with such different cultural, spiritual, historical backgrounds" - This assertion basically implies we should not criticize places with different cultures/histories/etc. no matter what they do. Should we give these countries total impunity because they are very culturally different from us? Is dictatorship, murder, torture and repression acceptable if it is committed in a different cultural environment to mine? Under that assumption, the world should have hesitated about speaking up against Latin American dictatorships and their terrible acts in the 70's & 80's? Also on this subject, it was thanks to twitter and cell phone video taken by Iranians that the world saw first hand the murder and brutality of the Iranian regime against peaceful election demonstrators. I will move on.

I completely agree with your feelings on Latin American dictatorships. I understand experiencing it vs. reading about it. No need to even debate this.

Your comment on Zelaya: "his pledge was to vote for the possibility of putting up the choice for a constitution ammendment" - While Honduran law allows for a constitutional rewrite, the power to open that door does not lie with the president. A constituent assembly can only be called through a national referendum approved by its Congress. So, he violated the law and was punished. It also should be noted that when Zelaya declared the vote on his own, he had Chavez ship the ballots from Venezuela. Foreign interference?

On your argument that Zelaya could not be re-elected, elections can be postponed, as they have been many times before in this country.
It should be obvious that Zelaya was not seeking to extend presidential terms for the good of his successors. Zelaya is a leader who censured the media, as was indicted in the OAS's 2008 accusation of censorship. In 2007, the United Nations criticized the Zelaya regime for threats to journalists in Honduras. Who is the dictator here?

Your anti-corporations argument is trying to make this into a left-right political argument which it is not. There are lots of other blogs to debate those views. This is about defending the independence of institutions that keep presidents from becoming dictators.

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