Thugs and caudillos

fragilidad-copyNine years have passed since I wrote the last lines of a thesis on the figure of the dictator in Latin American literature. Although my study pointed out the existence, still, of several caudillos who served as magnificent references for writing novels, in the end I thought it was an endangered species. Shortly afterwards I began to doubt if the tyrants weren’t in incubation, to reappear on our American lands. For some time now I have left my doubts behind: the dictators, or those aspiring to be, are here, although now they wear jeans, guayaberas or red shirts.

Nor has that other danger been extinguished: the military that takes the law into their own hands; the uniformed who impose their will by force of arms. We continue to rush into the arms of one or the other because a tradition of personalities and demagogues is not so easily eradicated. Right now in Honduras a whole nation can wrap itself in the prickly coat of the soldiers or be mesmerized by the “triumphal” return—á la Chavez—of one who has been deposed by force. In this dilemma, the citizens rarely come out well.

I like neither military coups nor presidents who seek infinite reelection. I have the same distrust of one who comes down from a mountain bearing arms, as I do of one who is elected at the ballot box and administers his country as if it were a hacienda, or as if it were his parents’ old plantation. And so I am worried about Honduras. I fear what happened will pave the way for the emergence of another figure invested with full powers. Beware! In the broad range encompassing satraps, the worst combination is when the figure of the caudillo and the armed thug converge in a single person.


26 thoughts on “Thugs and caudillos

  1. Article 237 of the Honduran Constitution:

    No citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.

  2. The more you persist in your comments the less you are going to get me in your side.

    Get the facts straight. I don’t know why you are bringing Batista into this exchange.

    Let’s examine your previous statement: “As far as Zelaya, if he violated the constitution that is not for us to judge. That is up to the courts in Honduras which is charged with interpreting the constitutionality of what the president does. If what he did is unconstitutional, he should be tried period.”

    This is not a question, If Zelaya violated the Constitution. He did and I have the right to express my opinion on the subject as any one else. Of course you are “Dreadming” when you expect the Honduran Court to decide if what Zelaya’s is doing is unconstitutional, being President, he probably have enough power to control the Court in his favor, like his friend in Venezuela has done.

    When you mention Italy and Great Britain you are talking about established democracies not Latin America, were the strong’s always try to impose their will.

  3. Statue of Liberty:

    I’ve been away, but here we go:

    Ok, so if we follow your logic, it was Ok for Batista to commit a coup in 1952 because he and his thugs thought that Prio was going to continue in power and not allow free elections. Following Batista’s coup, other parties and many in the population, disgusted at what took place, now looked for a new leader, anybody, as long as he is against Batista and promises villas in the clouds. And where does that lead…. I don’t think I have to tell you.

    As far as Zelaya, if he violated the constitution, that is not for us to judge. That is up to the courts in Honduras which is charged with interpreting the constitutionality of what the president does. If what he did is unconstitutional, he should be tried period. This is the twenty first century, not 1952. We all should stick to the rule of law, and accept who the people elect. We can then protest, take them to court, run for office next time around, or do what you peacefully and lawfully have to do to defeat the elected official if he is not liked. Otherwise, it’s going to be the law of the jungle again in Latin America. The picaros, thiefs, self-serving thugs will take over.

    As I said earlier, I don’t like some of the leaders you mention any more than you do. But their term will run out, and the people can decide who they want. Again, I’m not necessarily for Zelaya staying in power, but I do advocate his lawful removal if found guilty.

    By the way, what do you mean about “dreaming”. This is not a dream, this is done the world over in many democratic countries. Prime ministers, presidents, etc. are periodically and lawfully removed on a regular basis. I recommend reading up on what is happening in Italy, Great Britain, where the prime ministers are hanging by a thread, and may be replaced in short order. No dreams here, just trying and advocating, so as to prevent thugs from unlawfully taking over. If on the other hand you are suggesting that Latin Americans are somehow handicapped and not able evolve to have a system where the rule of law is respected by all, then you should back up that position. I’d love to hear your explanation.

  4. Free and fair elections are central to the exercise of democracy, but alone are not enough. The Inter-American Democratic Charter cites a number of “essential elements” of representative democracy, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law; the pluralistic system of political parties; and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government.

    Mel Zelaya, was elected democratically, but that alone was not enough to guarantee democracy in Honduras. His government had to comply with the other “essentials elements” of democracy. Zelaya did not respect at all the separation of powers and the independence of the branches of government. He did not govern in accordance with the rule of law and openly threatened the democratic guarantees.

  5. like kennedy said freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perferct but we’ll never had to put a wall to keep our people in,
    let’s all fight against the Castro repression machinery and fight against the imperialist foreing policy that Bush represents

  6. Thanks Carlos, at least there is one individual with common sense.

  7. In my country,well my city atleast,there are thug’s;they’re the memeber’s of the political party that rule’s my city.Their leader is even called Boss.If you mess with them,then you die,if not badly beaten up.How can we change this?how can we make sure the party’s ruling us are fair?i think there’s no such thing as a fair party or government;politic’s is a dirty business


    I guess you don’t want me to prejudge or much less remove a freely elected president.

    Well, I stand by my comment even if is not democratic, you have to be realistic and understand than while people like Zelaya, Chávez and Evo were freely elected, no one gave them the right to change the constitution in order to remain in power for life, they were elected for a short term only.

    My logic does not assume that his replacement was put there by a group of greedy military men as you mentioned. My logic says that Hondurans saw clearly what was coming to them and took the right action in order to prevent another Castro or Chávez in their soil.

    You said: “See where all this leads? It’s a dead end. If you’re Cuban and you’re on the side of democracy you should know better.”

    Yes I am Cuban and proud of it and I am on the side of democracy, that is why I feel that thugs like Zelaya, Castro, Chávez, Evo and the rest of them don’t have the right to enslave people the way they do.

    I don’t have to remind you that my people had endure 50 long years of oppression and if you look at Venezuela today, Chávez is going in the same direction than Castro, therefore it is time to STOP Zelaya (or whoever) to become president for life.

    There is an old saying “Muerto el perro se acabó la rabia” which more or less means “The better way to solve a problem is to attack the cause.” Let’s see how many of you blogger agree.

  9. I suppose the rest of the world has forgotten that freedom needs to be protected by any means and that doing so is legitimate. I wonder if any of the so called critics have taken the trouble of reading the Honduran constitution.

  10. It’s so smart Yoani’s post, it give chills.Never thing that “El manual del perfecto idiota latinoamericano” is out of era.

  11. Statue of Liberty:

    One cannot prejudge and remove a freely elected president because it is possible he will change the constitution or commits other unlawful acts. He has to commit the wrongdoing then he can be accused, tried and removed from office.

    If we go by your logic, then I should assume that his replacement was put there by a group of greedy military men. Since he was not freely elected then we could reasonably assume that he may be a psychopath in hiding who will start killing opponents left and right at the first chance, and therefore trigger a revolution possibly lead by a megalomaniac from the left, and so on and so forth …..

    See where all this leads? It’s a dead end. If you’re Cuban and you’re on the side of democracy you should know better.

  12. Let’s stop dreaming and analyze the ousting of Zelaya.

    While I don’t agree with “Coup D’ Eta” you have to understand that this thug (Zelaya) was about to change the Honduran Constitution in order to perpetrate himself in power for ever and ever just like Chavez & Castro did when they changed the Constitution.
    50 years of Castro’s is not what the Cuban people want or deserve, neither his simian child in Venezuela.

    “Cold in Chicago” says: “Remember, this individual was elected freely by the people, that must be respected above all except if he commits crimes.” Don’t you think he was about to commit a crime by trying to change the Constitution in his favor?

    So please tell me what is best for Hondurans, Zelaya or a coup?

    Welcome your comments.

  13. Julio:
    I’m sorry, I made a typing mistake and I did write July, instead of Julio (my comment # 11). I’m sorry.

    Once you did send the message you can’t edit it!!!



  14. July:

    I’m 100 % agree with you, if my mind is ok, I think that before y did say that We, the Cubans, are 100000000000% responsible or guilty of that catastrophic situation.

    The point is, that Castro symbolize the devil, the bad brain, the Pied Piper of Hammelin and, WE, the Cubans, are the mice!!!! (this is a metaphor!!!).


  15. Humberto, except that the articles cited don’t really say what you claim. Articles 184 to 186 say that it is the role of the Supreme Court to determine if a law is constitutional or not, and Article 239 provides some grounds for how a President could be discharged and barred from seeking office again.

    I’m no expert on the Honduran Constitution, but I find it hard to believe that the Constitution would contemplate a duly elected President being forced out of office at the point of a gun and flown into exile, complete with faked (or coerced) letter of resignation.

    This coup sets a terrible precedent for the fragile democracies of Latin America. News reports are saying the military in Guatemala is following the situation in Honduras closely, and if Zelaya’s ouster is not reversed, they may launch a similar coup against Guatemalan President Colom.

  16. Tyrants are always in incubation, just as psychopaths and criminals will always be lurking among us. Unfortunately we humans have strands of genes that give rise to such personalities. Even if our errand genes are suppressed in us, they’re still there and may come out in a future descendant.

    The key to all this is to educate ourselves about history, how these individuals rise to power and their techniques for achieving it. This will allow us to nip them in the bud, before they do damage, and put them in the right place, – i.e. jail, or mental hospitals.

    To Humberto Sisley:

    I doubt if arresting by force, a freely elected president in the middle of the night, by masked men, and dumping him on an airplane to leave the country is constitutional.

    Remember, this individual was elected freely by the people, that must be respected above all except if he commits crimes. If they want to depose him, it should be done publicly, with due process and by court or congressional order, after hearings are conducted to determine his crimes. This is how people gain credibility in their system.

    I don’t like this personage any more than most of us here. He was close to Chavez and probably, the Coma-Andante, was trying to extend the number of reelection terms, and sounds like he broke some laws according to news reports. As much as we may dislike his policies, we have to accept him, just like we accept the child molester Ortega in Nicaragua, and the ape-man in Venezuela, given they were both freely elected.

    A clandestine coup in the middle of the night is not acceptable, as it opens the door to chaos and despicable psychopaths from the left and right. The Cubans have learned this lesson the hard way after one ambitious, unscrupulous dictator (Batista) took power by force and provoked or created the conditions for the rise of another one (the Coma-Andante) that is much worse and bloodthirsty.

    The way this was done in Honduras smells of a military coup.

  17. It is important to see through the “Leftist” and “Rightist” labels and to think out of the box of the Cold War. The world is still pretty much managed by those who used to think in a bipolar way: with us or against us. To offer an alternative analysis to this reductionist way of thinking has been the aim of our blog in Puerto Rico: En el país de los ciegos… ( We have engaged in doing this particularly in our discussions on Iran and, now, Honduras. I am glad I found your blog.

  18. Pingback: Thugs and caudillos | Cuba News

  19. Zelaya was deposed by the LAW:

    ARTICULO 184.- Las Leyes podrán ser declaradas inconstitucionales por razón de forma o de contenido. A la Corte Suprema de Justicia le compete el conocimiento y la resolución originaria y exclusiva en la materia y deberá pronunciarse con los requisitos de las sentencias definitivas.
    ARTICULO 185.- La declaración de inconstitucionalidad de una ley y su inaplicabilidad, podrá solicitarse, por quien se considere lesionado en su interés directo, personal y legítimo:
    1. Por vía de acción que deberá entablar ante la Corte Suprema de Justicia;
    2. Por vía de excepción, que podrá oponer en cualquier procedimiento judicial; y
    3. También el Juez o Tribunal que conozca en cualquier procedimiento judicial, podrá solicitar de oficio la declaración de inconstitucionalidad de una ley y su inaplicabilidad antes de dictar resolución. En este caso y en el previsto por el numeral anterior, se suspenderán los procedimiento elevándose las actuaciones a la Corte Suprema de Justicia.
    ARTICULO 186.- Ningún poder ni autoridad puede avocarse causas pendientes ni abrir juicios fenecidos, salvo en causas juzgadas en materia penal y civil que pueden ser revisadas en toda época en favor de los condenados, a pedimento de éstos, de cualquier persona, del ministerio público o de oficio. Este recurso se interpondrá ante la Corte Suprema de Justicia. La ley reglamentará los casos y la forma de revisión.

    ARTICULO 239.- El ciudadano que haya desempeñado la titularidad del Poder Ejecutivo no podrá ser Presidente o Designado. El que quebrante esta disposición o proponga su reforma, así como aquellos que lo apoyen directa o indirectamente, cesarán de inmediato en el desempeño de sus respectivos cargos, y quedarán inhabilitados por diez años para el ejercicio de toda función pública.

  20. An excellent post Yoani. I share your worry about Honduras. My personal opinion is that Zelaya should be reinstated as President on the understanding that he drops the idea of extending term limits and leaves office when his term expires in January 2010.

    Honduras is a reminder that multi-party democracy is still fragile in Latin America. Democracy is about more than holding elections, even ones that are free and fair. Democracy is also about respecting constitutional norms and the rule of law. Democracy is also about safeguarding fundamental freedoms and civil liberties. Democracy will only become deeply rooted in Latin America if the vast social divides between rich and poor can be narrowed, not through senseless class struggle, but by strengthening social programs and creating economic opportunity for all citizens.

  21. Candido
    I have thought many times in this
    is Fidel Castro the only person we can blame about cuba’s problems

    my answer is no
    we are all to blame in one way or another
    we could all have say NO
    to the craziness demanded from us
    we could have stand against the regime
    we could have done many things and we did not.
    So the question then is why?
    Why we did not do all those things?
    One day future generations may ask those questions of us.
    Why were we so afraid to put our face attach to our opinion?
    Why have so much fear and not try joining those in the front line
    like Yoani and many others in Cuba? That are not afraid!

  22. Yoanis is too polite,!!!! or, too clever!!!!!,,,this new post should be called instead of “Thugs and Caudillos” as:

    “Castros and their Mafia Gang”!!!!!!

    That simple sentence resume everything wrong, everything diabolic, everything catastrophic, that has been happening in Cuba since January 1 , 1959 until today’s days,,,just because the infamy and the oppression took over Cuba with Castro and his mafia gang!!!


  23. Yes, there is always danger and a reduction in democracy when power is vested in a boss, a dictator, an elite of any kind. I have read many of the essays in here as well as the comments. I think those who yearn for the old Cuba really miss the point. Batista was a dictator who had some of those who opposed him tortured and murdered. Sure, you could buy a car or appliance IF you had plenty of money. If you were one of the poor peasants living in a one room shack, you had no hope of a car or even electricity or running water. The answer is not to embrace corrupt capitalism. The planet cannot sustain every human on earth having an abundance of appliances of every sort. We need grass-roots, bottom-up movements with free discussions among people. We need intelligent people who know history well and aren’t aching to trade Cuba’s repression of free speech to jump in bed with United Fruit Company (aka Chiquita) or some right-wing dictator who has his flunkies hook wires up to people’s genitals to interrogate them.

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