Thursday, July 2, 2009

Does it matter?

I have a Cuban friend in NYC, my age (also an interpreter), whose parents were "heroes of the revolution" and who worked for many years in the upper echelons there himself until he got fed up.

About Honduras, he observes, and he's probably right, that this fight is between two oligarchies, Zelaya being a wealthy rancher who only recently aligned himself with Chavez and Fidel. Below is his statement to me, copied verbatim except for correction of a few spelling and grammatical errors

All this recent brouhaha has a deja vu quality about it. To me Zelaya is just another Latin American political demagogue just like Peron, Fidel, Daniel Ortega, Correa, or Chavez and not a very good or important one at that . Besides, the whole political imbroglio between the three branches of the government and the army has the air of recurring slapstick comedy or in Hispanic cultural terms what is known as the "sainete" genre.

Moreover, after having had the experience of living through the Castro era and, after knowing a politician who is really larger than life and truly charismatic (this may be a manifestation of my Cuban ethnocentrism!), all these minor demagogues seem just like pale imitations of the only real McCoy. Just to put it in perspective, remember that while waiting on his deathbed for his inevitable demise, this guy still manages to preserve the world's interest and keep on center stage.

In Honduras, I see two sides engaged in a power struggle. The first is the clique actually in power in Honduras who feared losing their position within Honduran society if Zelaya did away with term limits and reelected himself. The second is the clique that wanted to retain power through the abolition of presidential term limits and Zelaya's reelection.

Both cliques belong to the oligarchical land-owning class that runs Honduras and neither will change society while in power. The whole fight is about which side will run the government and have the opportunity to enrich itself through corruption. Demagoguery and political maneuvering are just techniques both sides use to gain popular support and to be able to seize and hold on to power

The leftist Latin American governments and Obama apparently back Zelaya but Obama's backing is only lukewarm. He must back Zelaya to keep faith with the established US policy of backing of democracy in the hemisphere. But the present administration will not press very hard for Zelaya's reinstatement if it considers him and his supporters future allies to Latin America's new political leftist movement.

The US decision on whether or not to back Zelaya is crucial and will probably decide his fate. This decision will almost certainly depend on Zelaya's willingness to compromise and back down on his publicly stated objectives.

If he agrees to back down and not to seek the end of presidential term limits and run for reelection, the US will agree to reinstate him temporarily until the presidential elections are held in October or November. In this scenario, once agreement with Zelaya would be reached, the US would probably attempt to broker an agreement between both cliques to temporarily reinstate Zelaya to the presidency but with some sort of power sharing component that will not permit the elimination of presidential term limits and Zelaya's reelection.

If Zelaya does not back down, then US is not likely to lean very hard on the opposing clique and, as a consequence, negotiations between the clique in power, the OAS, and the international community to reinstate Zelaya might drag out until elections are held and a new president assumes office.

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