An interview with Hugo Martínez
By Fernando de Dios and Magdalena Flores
San Salvador – It was learned on Sunday that the current president of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo, and former President Manuel Zelaya, overthrown in a coup d’état on June 28, 2009, had reached an agreement for the latter’s return to his country and, consequently, for the reintegration of Honduras into the Organization of American States (OAS).
The decision, backed by a mediation process initiated by the presidents of Venezuela and Colombia, Hugo Chávez and Juan Manuel Santos, was recognized by the Minister of Foreign Relations of El Salvador in a statement in which he indicates that “the conditions established by the accord pave the way as well for the return of Honduras to the Organization of American States (OAS), a step El Salvador, along with other countries of the region, has advocated.”
Last Friday, Salvadoran Chancellor Hugo Martínez seemed optimistic about the process even before the results were known.
In this interview, we expressed doubts about the internal situation in Honduras concerning respect for fundamental rights, which he shares, he says in a very diplomatic way, but he argues that it would be easier to demand that the Honduran government meet its commitments if it is inside international organizations…
Is the question of Honduras finally going to be dealt with in the Permanent Council of the OAS?
That is subject to the developments that are taking place now. We believe that we must leave room for results that the mediation may have that President Santos and President Chávez are carrying out. We feel it has advanced greatly in some aspects, there are others that are challenges, but the mediation by President Chávez and President Santos have given fresh air to the debate for an eventual reincorporation of Honduras into the OAS.
What do you know about the initiation of this mediation process? Because a meeting was set up between Santos and Chávez…
And they decided to invite President Lobo.
Yes, but where did the initiative come from? From the government of Honduras itself, from the Colombian government, the Venezuelan, from farther north?
Well, the protagonists would have to explain that, Presidents Santos and Chávez. We know about the proposal for mediation and that is enough for us.
You were talking about advances. It has been revealed that there is a date set for Manuel Zelaya’s return to Honduras…
It has also been learned that all the charges lodged against him have been withdrawn, a report by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (CIDH) has been released, the work of the Truth Commission has been disclosed, the report by the National Reconciliation Commission has been released. So we feel that while it is true there are still some challenges, there is an atmosphere in the direction of achieving the re-establishment of democratic and constitutional order in Honduras.
What reports have the CIDH and those commissions given?
The CIDH report is public; I am not going to get into making comments on that report. On the Truth Commission report, I had the opportunity to meet here with the former Vice President of Guatemala, Eduardo Stein, who is president of the Truth Commission, and it will be a report that apparently will be submitted and will be made public after the OAS General Assembly.
[The latest report by the CIDH, published in April, indicates that in Honduras the rights of social and political leaders, journalists and defenders of human rights critical of the regime are still being violated. It also reveals that in that country there is harassment and persecution of judges identified as opponents of the coup d’état, violations of the right to freedom of expression and serious deficiencies on the part of the Honduran state in investigations of crimes and in the implementation of protective measures decreed by the organization in 2010 to protect the lives of persons being threatened. Finally, the CIDH considers that violations of fundamental rights have become more serious since the coup d’état of June, 2009.]
You say there are advances but there is also a statement signed by dozens of human rights organizations who say not to take lightly the decision to reintegrate Honduras into the OAS, because there is still so much to do. Last week the twelfth journalist died since Lobo became president and there is still a serious problem with the repression of campesino protests, as well as the question of the teachers, which is also not resolved. How is the government continuing to advance as far as human rights in Honduras are concerned?
We as a state are very respectful of the principle of the self-determination of peoples and very respectful of the internal affairs of each state. We cannot go in to investigate these cases, what we do is make an observation and we are making a very detailed observation of the situation of our sister country of Honduras. But the decision on this process of dialogue, this process of mediation being carried out by President Chávez and President Santos does not belong to us, nor even to President Chávez or President Santos, but to the protagonists of the situation in Honduras, and I understand that they have been talking with different parties.
These protagonists that you mention are the Lobo government and former President Zelaya, together with the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP). That Frente proposed four points for negotiation, of which two cannot be resolved before the General Assembly. But there are those who say they do not see any advances, above all in the question of the remaining exiles. How do you see this matter?
Well, everyone will have his own view on what is happening in Honduras, and we as a country and a region that wants to consolidate democracy, we are respectful of the opinions of others.
But the government of El Salvador still supports the return of Honduras to the OAS, we are clear on that.
Of course. That I can tell you with crystal clarity.
Well, there’s that at least…
Ha, ha, ha.
The Salvadoran government supports reintegration in a way that seems to carry no previous conditions.
We have said almost a hundred times why we support it. Because we believe that the best way of obliging Honduras to a restoration of the democratic and institutional fabric is precisely by having Honduras inside the organizations and not outside them. If Honduras is outside the organizations it has no obligation to those organizations, and that has been our basic thesis, always. And we believe that if we make an assessment, as I told you at the beginning, there have been advances on some points, on other points there are challenges, but we believe that those challenges can be resolved more easily by committing Honduras within those organizations. Now, frankly, I have not wanted to go in, and I am not going to go in and express opinions on details of the points of negotiation, of the details of the negotiations, because we are in a development phase of events such that any evaluation that I make in that regard could affect the process.
In your way of seeing that process, is there for certain a possibility that the General Assembly to be held in San Salvador will result officially in the return of Honduras to the OAS?
Yes, we are optimistic that the reincorporation of Honduras can occur soon. But it all depends on the advances in the mediation and on the consensus reached within the OAS.
And on the challenges that you mention, if it seemed that by waiting a little longer greater advances could be made in them, could more time be taken, so it would not happen in this meeting but at another time?
Everything depends on the mediation process that is being carried out, because if that process says that the conditions are ripe, that all the parties are satisfied, I don’t see any reason why we should have to wait. But also, on the other hand, it is important to seek a consensus.
Does there have to be unanimity in the Assembly?
No, that is desireable but the accords can be reached as well by a majority. But we consider that all the necessary efforts should be made to reach an accord by consensus…