Thursday, December 3, 2009

As Expected, Honduran Congress Votes “No” on Zelaya; Special Challenges in Interpretation Work

Before turning to events in Honduras, let me share something about my interpretation work. Most of the time, a big plus of the work is its variety; each assignment is different and a surprise. Unless the client is a repeat customer, I never know exactly who or what to expect. By e-mail, my main agency merely sends me a time, date, address, and a name or names. Of course, if I’ve been there before, I know how to get there and what sort of enterprise it is. But, if not, sometimes the surprise factor makes it rather challenging. For example, on Wed., I was given four names and an address in suburban Silver Spring, Md., 2120 Industrial Parkway. I don't own a car, so I called transit information and was told to take two metro trains, get off in at the Silver Spring station, and then take the #10 bus.

I started out early, as I usually do for a new address. It was cold and misty with a light rain falling. But at the Silver Spring station, no #10 bus stop was in evidence. Finally, I inquired of the driver of another bus, who told me that #10 did not come in there; I would need to take Z6. (It’s not usual for transit information to be wrong.) So I waited for Z6. That bus wound around several highways in semi-rural Md. until I finally came to where I was suppose to get off, the intersection of Industrial Parkway and Old Columbia Pike. If any of my readers have been out there, you know it’s rather a desolate, unpopulated location.

Since I knew this assignment had come from the State of Md., I looked around and decided to investigate the most prominent building, located behind a huge parking lot. It turned out to be the Dept. of Motor Vehicles. I had been sent to other DMV locations, where my task turned out to be interpreting at appeal hearings of license suspensions or revocations. But this DMV had no hearing rooms. I inquired at several offices there and was sent all around the building. It seemed this was not the right location after all, but there were no other state buildings in the vicinity.

I was about to give up when I decided to cross the highway to a small shopping center displaying signs for a Gold's Gym and a Christian Center. I rang the bell at the center, but, no, they had not requested an interpreter. However, they suggested I try around the side of that warehouse-like building, where I found a well-hidden locked door. There, I rang another bell and asked if anyone inside had requested a Spanish interpreter. Well, it turned out that was a senior day-care center and, yes, they were expecting an interpreter. So, I was let inside and, as it turned out, Md. examiners soon arrived to interview Medicaid recipients, among them my four Spanish-speaking oldsters. So I was glad I had persevered in my detective work.

OK, back now to Honduras. Zelaya has reportedly sent out a letter asking Latin American leaders not to recognize what he characterized as a fraudulent election held under a coup government. Not surprisingly (see article below), the Honduran congress voted against restoring Zelaya to the presidency. And while there has not been a groundswell of Latin American support for the recent Honduran presidential election, so far, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, and Peru have recognized it. The question still remains, what to do about Zelaya now? Most of the political establishment seems in no mood to include him in a government of national reconciliation and Zelaya himself appears to reject that possibility, declaring even before the congressional vote that he wouldn’t resume the office of president even if the vote was “yes.”

Although Facusse and other members of the ruling elite may find indeed find Miami a closer destination than Brazil, as quoted last time, the US must first restore their visas before they can make that trip again.

The woman called Honey in my book (the Odd Couple) sent me a long message expressing high praise for conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, one of my least favorite pundits. He’s a clever wordsmith and, as a wheelchair user, deserves credit for not playing the disabled card. However, he twists the facts so as to get people riled up against Obama, the government, taxes, gun control, gays, etc. and, of course, he’s 100% behind a far-right agenda. I am certainly no “bleeding-heart liberal,” but Krauthammer completely distorts the facts. I’m not surprised that “Honey” likes him.

Honduran lawmakers say 'no' to restoring Zelaya
Associated Press
Thursday, December 3, 2009

TEGUCIGALPA--Honduras' Congress ended hopes of reversing a coup that has isolated one of the poorest countries in the Americas, voting against reinstating ousted President Manuel Zelaya despite intense international pressure to do so. The vote Wednesday was part of a U.S.-brokered deal to end Honduras' crisis that left it up to Congress to decide if Zelaya should be restored to office for the final two months of his term - and lawmakers voted against the idea by a resounding 111-14 margin.

Zelaya, who listened to the proceedings from his refuge in the Brazilian Embassy, said even before the vote that he wouldn't return for a token two months if asked. He said he should have been reinstated before Sunday's presidential election and urged governments not to restore ties with the incoming administration of Porfirio Lobo. "Today, the lawmakers at the service of the dominant classes ratified the coup d'etat in Honduras," Zelaya said in a statement released after the vote. "They have condemned Honduras to exist outside the rule of law."

The Obama administration and some Latin American governments had urged Honduran lawmakers to reinstate Zelaya, who was seized and flown out of the country on June 28, generating worldwide calls for his reinstatement, foreign aid cuts and diplomatic isolation. But Honduras' interim leaders have proven remarkably resistant to diplomatic arm-twisting since the June 28 coup, rejecting near-universal demands that Zelaya be restored to his office before the previously scheduled election. Now lawmakers have even snubbed international demands that he be allowed to serve the final two months of his presidency.

Lawmaker after lawmaker insisted Wednesday that they were right the first time when they voted to oust Zelaya for ignoring a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum on changing the constitution. That vote happened hours after soldiers stormed into Zelaya's residence and flew him into exile in his pajamas. Zelaya opponents accuse him of trying to hang on to power by lifting a ban on presidential re-election, as his leftist ally Hugo Chavez has done in Venezuela. Zelaya denies such intentions.
"My vote is (a lesson) for anyone who pretends to perpetuate himself in power. My vote is so that my son can look at me and say 'Dad you defended democracy,'" said Antonio Rivera of Lobo's conservative National Party.

Lawmakers loyal to Zelaya expressed dismay. "How can we call this a constitutional succession when the president's residence was shot at and he was taken from his home in pajamas?" said Cesar Ham, a lawmaker from a small leftist party that supports Zelaya. "This is embarrassing. He was assaulted, kidnapped and ousted by force of arms from the presidency."

While legislators debated, 300 Zelaya supporters protested behind police lines outside Congress. Zelaya had won over many poor Hondurans with his initiative to rewrite the constitution, promising he would shake-up a political system dominated by two traditional parties with little ideological differences and influenced by a few wealthy families. Congress is dominated by Zelaya's own Liberal Party, which largely turned against him in the dispute over changing the constitution. Many Liberals voted against him Wednesday.

The Supreme Court and three other institutions submitted opinions to Congress all recommending that Zelaya not be reinstated because he faces charges of abusing power and other infractions. Honduras' interim leaders insist the victory by Lobo, a wealthy rancher, in the regularly scheduled presidential election shows their country's democracy is intact.

However, many Latin American countries, especially those led by left-leaning governments, said recognizing the election would amount to legitimizing Central America's first coup in 20 years.

That stance wasn't unanimous in the region, though. Washington urged Zelaya's reinstatement but it stopped short of making that a condition for recognizing Lobo's government. Costa Rica, Peru, Panama and Colombia backed the U.S. view.

Zelaya's reinstatement was not required by a U.S.-brokered pact that was signed by both the deposed leader and interim President Roberto Micheletti. The pact requires only that a unity government be created for the remainder of Zelaya's term, leaving the decision on restoring Zelaya to office up to Congress.

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