Monday, July 20, 2009

Church of Honduras - coup and Zelaya

The Church of Honduras rejects the coup

but asks Zelaya to respect the Constitution.

June 30, 2009
Patricio Downes

The executive director of Caritas of Honduras, Father Germán Calíx, make it clear that the Catholic Church rejects the coup against the constitutional government of its country, but at the same time demands that the deposed official Manuel Zelaya respect the constitutional requirements for plebiscites and referenda in regard to constitutional reforms. This is a point that had created friction between the Honduran bishops and the president.

In declarations by telephone from Tegucigalpa to “Religion Digital,” Calíx, a close collaborator with Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, rejected the accusation against the Catholic Church in Honduras that is was complicit with the coup. “Niether the one nor the other,” he pointed out, “because ten days before the coup the Church called for dialogue and supported [the idea] that the people be consulted.” Father Calíx added that the bishops are ready to become part of a dialogue commission, called by the
de facto government, but it considered the arrival of Zelaya, planned for this Thursday [but now postponed to Saturday], could be “catastrophic” if an agreement was not reached beforehand.

While Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga was holding continuous meetings to avoid a coup ending up in blood bath, Calíx said that the Church maintains the same posture that it expressed in its document of June 19 [Comunicado de la Conferencia Episcopal de Honduras <]. The Cardinal, president of Caritas International, was unavailable for his co-workers while fully involved in mediating.

In that document the Honduran bishops noted, “Participative democracy which we wish will only be possible under certain conditions. Thus,
we urge the elected authorities to take great for the State of Right [the Rule of Law], which they know how to find, by means of dialogue, the solutions of the present conflict and that they know how to guarantee for the Honduran people the regulation of its constitutional resources, such as the Plebiscite and the Referendum, which, together with other tools, such as the Law of Citizen Participation, permit the consultation of the people in matters of major importance.”

- Would the church participate in dialogue, despite the de facto government?

- If they would call it now, the Church would be disposed to participate despite having received a lot of criticism, especially against the hierarchy, because they consider that it did not put itself on the side of the deposed government and that, by not having spoken in favor of the fourth ballot box [the poll scheduled for June 28 on having a ballot question in November about a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Constitution] - which is the process that Zelaya had initiated – they accuse the Church of being a participation in the coup d’etat, which has no solid foundation in fact.

Father Calíx this made reference to the possibility of a dialogue commission, which the de facto president Roberto Micheletti has called for. He belongs to the Liberal Party, that same party in which Manuel Zelaya came to power. But until last night they had not set up the mechanism for dialogue to which they would invite the Catholic and Evangelical Churches, as well as the business sector, workers and campesinos [peasants]. Calix commented that
the fomenters of the coup had not taken into account the international front and the strong rejection of the coup in the European Union as well as in ALBA (The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas), the Organization of American State, and the Rio Group.

- What does the Church think of the coup?

- Before the coup on June 29, the Church issue a communication in which it said that
you cannot make democracy against democracy. And in this moment the Church has done no more than repeat this. Before the coup, it had been suggested and even asked that all the sectors of society could sit together in a great dialogue and let emerge valid and rational ways out of this situation and that it would not just be an arrangement made between politicians but a consensus among the different sectors of society and that it was necessary to take into account that the political crisis came upon us gradually because the democratic system had not been capable to make the jump to social justice for all the country.

-Did you say to Zelaya that you were opposed to the reelection proposal?

-Yes, some ten days before the coup the bishops met with president Zelaya to let him know that the Church agreed with the desire for the people’s participation and that the participation of the people ought not to be limited in public destinies and in the fixing up of public policies. But it ought to de done
within the existing legal framework, since there are already structures like the plebiscite and the referendum with a lot of experience in South America. And there the president was asked to put aside all personal desire for continuity or reelection, a message which he had already received beforehand from the Church and he had given his word to hand over power in January, which could be certain as the word of the president, nevertheless the movement which he was generating around a national assembly put in doubt his affirmations, because the assembly was going to have the legal right to choose him as president and , in that case, he was going to have the option to perpetuate himself in power or change the constitution in over to be again elected president.

- The slogan was “neither the one nor the other,” neither reelection nor coup?

Neither of the two, since
the church does not consider the coup was the way out for life in a democracy. The coup does not resolve the political problem which has been coming along slowly during a decade in the exhausting of the party system in Honduras, where a two party tradition exists since the last century, from 1920 more or less, in some case in some cases recalling including still the ideals of that epoch. Those parties need to be reformed but the reforms cannot come through the way of party bosses [caudillos] and, even less, through a coup d’etat, but it is necessary to open spaces for the renovation of the parties, to open up for greater participation, and to seek political solutions to problems which are internal. The peculiarity is that the members who supposedly carried out this coup d’etat – where the military are only the visible and fleeting hand, no more than a moment , because they quickly handed power over to civilians – is that has been brought about among members of the same Liberal Party.

- How do you see the return of Zelaya which is expected this Thursday? [It has been delayed until Saturday.]

Now there’s a lot of commotion, because yesterday and today have been days of confrontation within the social sectors, above all within the popular sectors, and
there has been talk of 70 wounded, with no deaths, thank God, up till now. The coming of president Zelaya could be catastrophic because it would mean mobilization of all these people to receive him, to cheer him, and to escort him and there would be a confrontation with police and governmental forces. It would not be a solution unless – because of international pressure – the government on duty (de facto) would decide to negotiate also with Zelaya. But, definitely, it will only be with difficulty that he will be accepted in the position in which he was by a great part of the population.


This is my translation - corrections most welcome - of an article in Spanish, most of which is an interview.
Items between parentheses [ ] are my additions to clarify points made in the article. The sections in bold were in bold in the original article.

La Iglesia de Honduras rechaza el golpe, pero pide a Zelaya que respete la Constitución

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