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Ex-President Micheletti: The US Asked Me to Return Power to Zelaya

By: Elena Toledo - @NenaToledo - May 4, 2015, 8:48 pm
Retired from politics, Micheletti is still concerned over the situation in Honduras and the countries ruled by left-wing extremists or communists. (PanAm Post)
Retired from politics, Micheletti is still concerned with the situation in Honduras and the endurance of populist rule in the region. (PanAm Post)

EspañolRoberto Micheletti Baín played a significant role in the political crisis that struck Honduras in 2009. He assumed the presidency of the country when the Supreme Court of Justice ordered the arrest of then-President Manuel Zelaya, who was subsequently expelled from the country by the armed forces.

Six years on, Micheletti has retired from political life, and lives surrounded by nature and his family.

Yet the specter of political turmoil has returned once more to the Central American nation. Late in April, a chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice revoked two key constitutional provisions that prohibited presidential reelection: paving the way for a range of candidates to reoccupy the office indefinitely, including current President Juan Orlando Hernández.

The former president welcomed the PanAm Post to his country home to talk about his seven months at the helm of a nation in crisis, and his views on the current situation facing Honduras and the nation.

Six years have passed since the events of 2009, how do you see Honduras today?

The lesson was not learned. We keep making the same mistakes, stepping on the Constitution, and going through hard times. There’s an economic crisis, crime is higher than before, although the bought-off media don’t tell the truth. Despite the government’s efforts, education is still mediocre because of the union leaders. We still have a weak police force, the military are trying their best, but drug trafficking and crime have beaten them.

I would point to the responsibility of the Porfirio Lobo administration, who arrived in power after the events of June 28, 2009. We believed that because he was a member of a republican and democratic party, he would be able to change a lot of things, but instead he allowed all the things that are going on now to begin. It was an irresponsible and corrupt government, and provided a lot of ammunition to the corrupt left.

How did you change after this experience?

I feel a lot of sadness. We’ve seen how Honduras has not learned its lesson. Suddenly, the Hondurans who love democracy, peace, and tranquility in the country saw how all the efforts they made went down the drain, with a despicable government such as Porfirio Lobo Sosa’s. That’s one of the things that has disappointed me.

What would you change of your seven months in office as president? 

Be more active in the issues I mentioned before. I can take the liberty to say that during the seven months I ruled, the lazy teachers didn’t work and got paid, as with the doctors and nurses, there was not a single delay. We had no charity or support from any country in the world, because the gringos turned their back on us just as the rest of the world.

It wasn’t that the leftists and communists of the world wanted to abide by what the gringos were saying, but it suited them to prevent a democrat from sustaining democracy in a country like Honduras.

What was your most difficult moment? 

There were several. For instance, when Hugo Chávez told us that he was going to attack us, it was a moment of concern. When there was a popular mobilization in Tegucigalpa because Manuel Zelaya was supposed to land there, but he never did. He attempted to enter the country via Nicaragua, with economic support from Brazil, Nicaragua, Hugo Chávez, and all those leftists.

When various gringo commissions visited Honduras and tried to force us to return power to Zelaya, we knew that if we had done that, this country would have been worse than Venezuela.

When Zelaya lost power he had not transferred a penny to the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) for the November elections, and it was June. Despite the complaints, because he wanted to remain in power, he didn’t care. So, we allocated 300 million Ls. [roughly US$13.6 million] from the country’s budget and a friendly country, Japan, granted us 350 million Ls. [$16 million] so that elections could be held that year.

How did the US commissions pressure you to hand over power?

The gringos don’t have friends, they have interests. You must be careful because they are the empire of the world and you don’t want to have them as enemies. I can denounce them because I am simply a citizen, and I don’t want anything from them, not even the visa. When I traveled there I spent dollars, dollars that can be spent better in Honduras.

Tras 6 años alejado de la actividad política, Roberto Micheletti dice no tiene intenciones de buscar una reelección. (PanAm Post)
Six years after leaving politics, Michiletti isn’t looking for another term as president. (PanAm Post)

The US commissions that arrived at the Presidential House while I was president came with the intention to convince me to hand over power back to Zelaya.

An individual named Dan Restrepo told me that the gringos didn’t care what kind of government it was, even a socialist or a communist government, provided that it negotiated with them. He was a representative for [US President Barack] Obama and [then-Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton.

It was then when he warned me I would be punished, that I would no longer be able to enter the United States due to my attitude. I’ve always been in favor of Americans, but not the US government, and I have to point to the Obama administration as the worst government for the people of Latin America.

They asked me to hand power to Zelaya, but fortunately a Venezuelan national called Alejandro Peña Esclusa told me: “President, do not hand power to Zelaya, because the gringos have tricked us before; they told us to hand power back to Hugo Chávez, and see how it turned out.” I was always remembering this when the gringos arrived to ask me that.

I believe that millions of Hondurans are frustrated. The gringos did this to benefit who knows who, to curry favor with Chávez, to flatter the left. But in the end we see how the country [Venezuela] that kicked off this farce of 21st-century socialism is currently in its direst hour, even when it’s the richest country of the Americas — materially speaking — with tons of crude oil, and in both poor and rich neighborhoods they don’t have enough to eat.

It must be remembered that Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala were under left-wing governments, leaving Mexico and Honduras. Chávez’s plan was to obtain 500,000 Central American votes to elect the leftist leader in Mexico, Manuel López Obrador, but after the failure of his plot in Honduras, it wasn’t possible.

Would you run again for president?

No, and not because I have no right. Only a fool would say that I’m not enabled to run for the presidency. Here they’ve opened the field, today a naturalized Honduran could be a candidate, even a prisoner. Today any military or police officer could be elected, the chief of the Armed Forces could launch his candidacy and no-one could stop him.

But I have principles: that [reelection] is illegal, no matter who does it. If in 2009 a citizen was removed from the office of the presidency, why would reelection be okay now?

What message would you like to deliver to the citizens of countries that fight every day for their freedom in Latin America? 

Have faith: there is no people that will put up with a ruler for so many years. Some rulers have had the chance to be in power for half a century, because they’re on an island. But those from here, I don’t believe they could hold out that long; they’ve shown their incompetence everyday. They rule for corruption, abuse of power, and negligence.

To the youth of Latin America: if you do not do what others have done to defend democracy, your children will live through the disgrace we’re enduring right now, perhaps even worse.

That’s why we have to choose new figures to govern us, always looking for the peace of the republic, under law, with no weapons or bombs, without killing anyone. Let us not stand by and allow the atrocities of a megalomaniac who thinks he is the only one who can rule the country.

Translated by Adam Dubove. Edited by Laurie Blair. Update: 11:00 p.m. EDT, May 4, 2015.

Elena Toledo Elena Toledo

Educator by trade, social-media apprentice, activist for a democratic Honduras, and free thinker. Follow her on Twitter @NenaToledo.