Kerry, Berman want controversial Honduras report to be retracted

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) made the demand in a letter dated Tuesday to James Billington, the Librarian of Congress. They asked the Law Library of Congress to withdraw and correct the August 2009 report titled “Honduras: Constitutional Law Issues.”

“The report, which has contributed to the political crisis that still wracks Honduras, contains factual errors and is based on a flawed legal analysis that has been refuted by experts from the United States, the Organization of American States, and Honduras,” Kerry and Berman wrote in the letter.

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Kerry is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while Berman is chairman of the House Foreign Relations panel.

The report, which went public last month, has been cited by Republicans as evidence that the de facto Honduran government was right to take power when the military forced Zelaya into exile in late June.

The report said the de facto government acted legally in ousting Zelaya. That government has said Zelaya was planning to remove presidential term limits to remain in power past the November elections, and that it acted to protect the country under its constitution. Zelaya has denied that charge.

In an Oct. 10 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said the report proved that Zelaya’s ouster was not a coup but instead confirms its “legality and constitutionality.”

Kerry and Berman say the report is “misleading to the Congress and the public.”




They lay out three problems in the report. First, they argue it follows a line of analysis based on a Honduran constitutional provision that was struck down in 2003 by the Honduran Supreme Court. Second, they write that parts of the report relay on a supporter of Zelaya's ouster. Finally, they say the report presents a “unique” interpretation of the Honduran constitution without “adequate textual or precedential support.”

DeMint and other GOPers in Congress have sided with the de facto government, saying President Barack Obama acted hastily when he called Zelaya's ouster “illegal.” DeMint has blocked the nominations of two State Department nominees because of the Obama administration's stance on the political crisis in Honduras.

In contrast, Democrats have increasingly put pressure on Honduras. They have supported suspending U.S. visas for those involved Zelaya's ouster and canceling foreign aid until he is returned to power.

In their letter, Kerry and Berman ask for the report to include outside views and that a corrected version be reissued.

“Thank you for your attention to this important matter. The stakes are too high to allow the record to stand uncorrected,” the chairmen write.

Staff for the two lawmakers had arranged an Oct. 22 meeting to discuss the report with Law Library aides and Honduran legal experts, including a former Honduran Supreme Court justice and a sitting Honduran appellate judge. But the day before the meeting, the Law Librarian of Congress told committee staff that she was withdrawing the drafter of the report and other Law Library experts from the meeting and she would sit in herself, the letter said.



This story was updated at 9:55 a.m.