By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, July 8 — The June 28 military coup in Honduras has captivated a lot of people’s attention around the globe and especially in Latin America, and there’s plenty of reason why. It wasn’t that long ago when many of the continent’s nations were ruled by ruthless leaders whose power stemmed from similar actions.
The 9/11/73 coup in Chile is one of the many that remains fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday: Images too vivid to forget; too many lessons to be learned. The one most present was surely repeated in Honduras last Sunday.
A friend was on a train traveling from Chile to Argentina on Sept. 11, 1973, when she passed by a car where a group of businessmen were opening numerous bottles of champagne. They were so delighted that my friend couldn’t help but to knock on their door and ask what they were celebrating.
After hearing that President Salvador Allende was dead and his government overthrown, she was filled with terror. And it wasn’t for nothing; her children, husband and dreams were back in Chile and totally vulnerable to the reign of terror that would follow.
Late Saturday night July 4, and on into Sunday morning, the Organization of American States (OAS) held a special meeting to work out a common approach to the critical situation in Honduras. Foreign ministers from most of the 34-member countries were present as well as the presidents of Argentina, Paraguay and Honduras: Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, Fernando Lugo and Manuel Zelaya.
I watched the entire session broadcast live on Telesur TV. By far the speech that caught my attention the most came from Cristina Fernandez Kirchner. Today, I received the transcription thanks to the permanent OAS mission of Argentina. Wanting to share it with Havana Times readers we quickly went to work translating it.
Speech by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner at the OAS General Assembly on July 4, 2009.
“Thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Mr. President of the Republic of Honduras, of the Republic of the Paraguay, delegates.
The truth is that if somebody had told me, barely 15 days ago, that today I would be sitting here in the OAS in opposition to a military coup, I would have said that such was a product of their imagination, that it was the product of some delirium, a product of sleeplessness, keeping in mind that the democratic restoration in Latin America is an achievement that cost too much in terms of human lives, in terms of economic and social tragedies.
Moreover, above all these things — because in addition to that democratic restoration there has also begun to reign in the region, especially in the most recent times, since the change of administration in the United States of America — things have begun to change. Barely two months ago we were in Trinidad and Tobago, at the Fifth Summit of the Americas, and we all felt, we clearly perceived that a new stage had begun, perhaps, to deepen the process of democratic restoration and to build a different coordination, between what was the United States and the rest of the Americas, especially because – why not say it with absolute sincerity? – the National Security Doctrine, which President Zelaya mentioned, had in fact been imposed from Washington.
I see José Miguel Insulza, who is the secretary-general of the Organization of the American States, but he is also a Chilean; I remember what my country suffered, not only in 1976… the coups were not only during the 1960s and 70s… in fact in the Argentinean Republic they began in 1930, recognized even by the country’s Supreme Court, which recognized the de facto governments as legal.
So, I thought we were in a new era, that also, in this same arena of the OAS, [at a recent meeting] in President Zelaya’s country, we had also completed another historical landmark, which was precisely to revoke the sanction against our sister republic of Cuba.
And then suddenly this: the return of military coups.
I know there is a discussion one can often read in the newspapers, among political scientists, analysts… about who has a lot of support or little support, who has the most support – the coup leaders or those removed from office. I believe this is to not clearly understand that it is the concept of democracy [at stake], and also, it is to not understand what the history of military coups in Latin America was.
In Latin America the coups were military, but in fact, they were also often supported by wide segments of the population. In 1955 in my country, when Peron was overthrown, the Plaza de Mayo was full of people, packed, supporting the coup. I recall that recently the president of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo recalled that she too had been there, because she was against Peron. Decades later her daughter disappeared, and they still haven’t found her grandson.
The 1976 coup was instructive not in terms of the masses in the streets supporting the toppling of Peron, but because it had the silent and not so silent support of one part of the society. Another mother, a founding member of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo… often relates that she was in agreement with that coup, and that she was pleased. Months later her son disappeared.
What am I trying to say by this? — that the discussion is not about if one has a majority or a minority in favor of the coup backers or the non-coup backers, that is not to understand the true problem or the true dimension and true concept of democratic practices in our societies. That is to not understand that democracy is not only the respect of the popular will, but also – fundamentally – the systemic organization of society expressed in its constitutions.
That fact is that I have attentively read the Honduran Constitution, and in none of its 375 articles is there mentioned the possibility of the armed forces kidnapping its president and sending him to a foreign country.
Therefore, all the discussions about the acts that the president may have taken, if there was a majority or minority in favor of one or the other side, is in fact not to understand the true dimension of the problem. It is to hide it, perhaps to mask the true problem, which is the need to abide by legality, which is the instrument that allows us to be organized and coexist in a society. I sincerely believe that the dawn in which that they kidnapped you, Mr. President; they were kidnapping democratic restoration in Latin America.
I have not come here to support a person or a president. Moreover, a journalist asked me before coming here, while still in my country, if I had any affinity with some leader. I told him President Zelaya was a leader of the Liberal Party, that he was a powerful rancher. That, in fact, he had little to do with my political history, but that this had absolutely nothing to do with what I came here to do today, which is to reaffirm the urgent necessity that this arena, which is the one containing all of the American states, not only applies Article 21 of the Democratic Charter, but rather, as that same Article 21 indicates, carries out all diplomatic actions aimed at restoring the illegitimately deposed government.
I believe that this includes not only the respect for democracy, but also the very existence of the Organization of American States and the possibility, without the least of doubt, of not returning to a barbaric past.
I also believe, speaking for myself alone, that, there are other interests also here behind the scenes, interests that perhaps want to detour the direction that the group of the Americas has begun to take; for example, in Trinidad and Tobago, where we could dialogue and try to have a different relationship.
I am not naïve, and I believe the attack is not only against you, President Zelaya, or against the Republic of Honduras. Perhaps there is a strategy that is finer, deeper, one that not only involves those in your country who may want to continue with the model of the non-redistribution of income, etc, etc. I believe that it is also an attempt to frustrate a different policy for the whole of America, of all countries that make up the Americas.
Let’s give it some thought. How curious, during the last eight years there have not been similar cases recorded, except for the Venezuela episode. Change the administration of the most powerful country in the world, in which we are meeting today, here, with a new position, which we all hope is a change, and then comes something like this, that seems to be a retreat backwards or that calls into question the advances that we have begun to make. This started with a change of administration [in the US], which has not only sowed a great deal of hope — in America but also in the world — in the need for change.
Without conspiratorial visions but with intelligence, we all have the obligation to observe the facts and not only in the place where they take place, or from the appearances that they present. I believe that we are all obliged to take a big dose of rationality, a big dose intelligence, to understand the things that are in play based on what has happened in Honduras.
To restore things to their place, therefore, will not only be an act of justice for the people of Honduras and the unlimited respect for human rights, but also for the possibility of continuing and deepening a change that began in Trinidad and Tobago, of the repeal of the suspension of our sister republic Cuba, and of a different air that began to be breathed across all of the Americas.
It is the responsibility of everyone, not only of those who are in this international organization, who obviously have greater power, greater responsibilities. I always say that leaderships should be responsible and that to lead in the world and the region also demands a large dose of responsibility.
For that reason, President Zelaya, I want to tell you that I am here, not only as president of the Argentinean Republic, but also as part of a generation that was the object of the coup d’états in Latin America. When I became politically active in my country, there was a dictatorship. The party with which I identified was outlawed, as it remained for 18 years.
In fact, in the name of all those histories that also exist… over there I see the representative of Uruguay, I also see that of Brazil. I see, in short, our countries that have been the object of dictatorships, which have meant economic, social and cultural backwardness.
In the name of these histories and on behalf of these decades in which we have been able to reconstruct democracy, we are here today not only to cast a vote in the sense of a sanction, but also for the need to build and design a common strategy that seriously allows the reconstitution of his [Zelaya’s] government, the legitimate government, so that when Hondurans vote again in November, when they decide who will be their new president, they will do it under a constitutional government.
If not, I greatly fear that we would be facing a trap, the trap of letting time lapse until the next elections, that surely will be carried out with observers from different countries, from different organizations, who could then legitimize what we might call the “doctrine of benevolent coups,” perhaps a new form of introducing the rupture of the democratic order; not only now, since the taking of power by the military-civilian alliance, but also involving an important role of the media.
I recall the foreign minister’s [Patricia Rodas] words, they remain recorded in my mind from the day that I heard them in the media, on Telesur to be precise, which was by the way the only media source that broadcast the coup, at least in its first hours and days. This means that while they kidnapped the president of Honduras, the main television stations in that country broadcast cartoons…
Because of all these things, I am here, although I would have liked to have been in the OAS for the first time for a different occasion. It is not one who chooses history, but history that often chooses us.
Nothing else, and thank you.”
Translation by Havana Times of the original supplied by Argentina’s permanent mission to the OAS.