Thursday, July 30, 2009

Micheletti Talking National Reconciliation

Obama and, under his direction, Clinton have been consistently been trying, in calibrated steps, to promote non-violent solutions to international political problems and defuse crises, promoting the building of consensus, trust, and a spirit of compromise, hence the insistence on a negotiated solution in Honduras. Such an insistence, which will not work in all cases, may be frustrating to parties on either side who want their own position to “win” and who are impatient. Even in Afghanistan, despite a military push, there has also been a reaching out to the Taliban and their supporters. Regarding Cuba, already travel and other restrictions have been lifted for those with relatives on the island and, significantly, the US Interests Section (embassy equivalent) has turned off a news feed that, while it might have given Cubans a different slant on world news, was an irritant to the current regime. It’s certainly a change from the Bush-Cheney approach of labeling countries part of an “axis of evil” and making preemptive military strikes. Even domestically, Obama has expressed a willingness to deal on health care reform and has invited both parties in the Gates affair to sit down together at the White House. I don’t know how Obama keeps up with his amazingly busy and varied schedule and always seems prepared, quite a change from GWB who fumbled his words, disliked reading, went out on afternoon bike rides, took naps, and went to bed early.

I've heard from the PC in Honduras that the new group of trainees has been standing by, patiently waiting in the DR, but is now finally going to Honduras. No doubt, they will be instructed to avoid involvement in the political fray. Meanwhile, a message I got today from a Honduran is that things there are fairly normal and the presidential campaign is in full swing. Interestingly, Pepe Lobo is the Nationalist candidate, the guy that Zelaya defeated last time (with the financial and strategic help—now regretted—of American Allen Andersson, a former Honduras PC volunteer). If my correspondent is right, the Honduras flap may now be greater outside the country than inside, a good thing.

It also sounds like the interim government may be yielding (or only stalling?). At least, Micheletti is adopting the Pbama tone of reconciliation, this time talking about internal reconciliation (see articles below). I thought Zelaya had been coming to Washington, but apparently he's still in Nicaragua. I do think most Zelaya supporters, unsophisticated and unschooled in geo-politics, will be happy just to see their guy back in Honduras if he returns. They can flock to and cheer at his speeches, shake his hand, embrace him. Meanwhile, he has left a mess for the next president to try to clean up. Of course, some countries are now saying they won't recognize the next Honduran election, especially if Zelaya does not go back, but if he does, most will, including the US. Whenever that election is held, I hope to be an observer.

Here is my most recent message from Honduras (no corrections made), saying that while protests continue, things have calmed down and are getting back to normal and the presidential candidates are campaigning, Elvin Santos for the Liberals (Zelaya’s party), Pepe Lobo for the Nationalists, and other candidates for smaller parties, despite the fact that Mel (Zelaya) and some other countries are protesting the legitimacy of the elections: la situacion de Honduras sigue.... siempre hay gente en las calles protestando pero el pais poco a poco vuelve a la tranquilidad, las elescciones estan previstas para finales de noviembre, los candidatos..Elvin Santos por el partido Liberal, Pepe Lobo por los nacionalistas, Cesar Hann por la UD ( por cierto este siempre a andado con Mel apoyandole cone so de la cuarta) el Pinu no recuerdo ahora ni la democracia Cristiana, bien hay otro que es un idependiente que dice( segun el que viene del pueblo) pero es un dirigente sindical, apellido H.Reyes... bien las elecciones internas fueron el año pasado.....asi que segun muchos es legal, pero los del Mel, y algunas personas internacionales dicen que no es legal por el gobierno que esta ahora..bueno no se....pero asi estan las cosas.

Mediator calls for continued sanctions in Honduras
Associated Press
Thursday, July 30, 2009 12:15 AM

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said Wednesday that foreign governments should keep on applying sanctions against Honduras' interim government even as its leaders expressed interest in further negotiations on ending the standoff. Arias, who sought unsuccessfully to mediate a compromise between ousted President Manuel Zelaya and his foes, said the interim administration "isn't convinced" and "hasn't yet recognized that President Zelaya should be reinstated."
Arias told reporters at a regional summit in Costa Rica that "sanctions should continue to be applied." Some governments have frozen aid programs for Honduras or canceled visas for officials connected to the interim government. The Costa Rican leader said Honduras' acting president, Roberto Micheletti, had called him to ask that Arias send an envoy to Honduras to speak with all three branches of the interim government. He said Micheletti had suggested Enrique Iglesias, the former longtime head of the Inter-American Development Bank. Arias did not say whether Iglesias would go.

Micheletti issued a statement Wednesday calling Arias' mediation "the best path to achieving a consensus in Honduras," and he asked Arias to include all parts of society in the dialogue, including church groups, students, business groups, unions, political parties and news media. "Our citizens need to support and broaden the San Jose dialogue in Honduras, that is, have a dialogue among our own people," Micheletti wrote.

Last week, Micheletti's government rejected a proposal by Arias that Zelaya resume the presidency in a coalition government of all parties and that amnesty be given to both sides. Honduras officials said Zelaya would be arrested if he returned to his homeland.

In Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, pro-Zelaya protesters returned to the streets and blocked traffic in another of their daily demonstrations demanding his restoration to the presidency. Backers of the government that was installed after the army flew Zelaya out of Honduras on June 28 also have held demonstrations.
Meanwhile, two Venezuelan diplomats remained holed up at their country's embassy a week after the interim government ordered them to leave. The interim government accuses Venezuela - whose President Hugo Chavez is a vocal ally of Zelaya's - of threatening Honduras and interfering in its internal affairs. It gave the diplomats a 72-hour deadline to leave on July 21, but they refused, saying they don't recognize the government.

The embassy's charge d'affaires, Ariel Vargas, vowed to hold out in the embassy as about 20 Zelaya supporters gathered outside seeking to block any forcible takeover. "We can't go out on the street for fear they will arrest us," Vargas told reporters. The interim government has said it will simply wait for the Venezuelans to leave.

Zelaya and a group of about 500 supporters remained at a Nicaraguan town on the border with Honduras. On Wednesday, U.N. officials toured the camp "to see what these people's health condition is," said Nicaraguan Health Minister Guillermo Gonzalez, who accompanied the group.

Honduran leader softens tone in fight over Zelaya
By Mica Rosenberg
Thursday, July 30, 2009 2:53 AM

TEGUCIGALPA - Honduras' de facto ruler called on Wednesday for new talks to solve the country's political crisis and a source said he might be willing to allow the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya under strict conditions. Roberto Micheletti, named by Congress as president after Zelaya was toppled in a coup last month, asked for a special envoy to come to Honduras "to cooperate in the start of dialogue in our country."

Under pressure from the United States to reverse the coup, Micheletti softened a previous hardline tone and said many Hondurans could play a role in solving the crisis. "This dialogue, this effective communication should include all parts of civil society, our churches, professional groups, student groups, business associations, media, political parties," he said in a statement read out on television.

Micheletti asked mediator Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to send Enrique Iglesias, a former president of the Inter-American Development Bank, to Honduras to breathe life into crisis talks that were all but dead. Washington has demanded Zelaya's reinstatement and on Tuesday revoked diplomatic visas for four members of Micheletti's administration. Micheletti has often said the government, Supreme Court and Congress were all firmly opposed to Zelaya's reinstatement, and that it could never happen, but his tone may be changing. A source with close connections to the de facto government said Micheletti might now be willing to consider Zelaya's return if given assurances that the ousted president does not try to derail democracy.

Micheletti wants Arias to send someone of international stature to help convince Hondurans of a plan to end the crisis that included Zelaya coming back to office, the source said, adding that the plan would need to be "fine tuned." "Because, as it stands, the proposal would be rejected across the board by the powers that be in the country," the source said. "He is saying to Arias, 'Help me convince my people,'" he said.

The Honduran Supreme Court, which ordered the army to oust Zelaya on June 28, is due to rule this week on Arias' proposal that Zelaya be allowed back to serve out the rest of his time, which ends early next year. A leftist ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Zelaya upset the court and many in Congress by trying to hold a referendum to change the constitution. Critics say he was trying to extend his mandate, but he denies that.

The president said from exile in Nicaragua on Wednesday that he was confident he would return, but made no reference to any imminent deal. "There's no fixed date. Pressure is being put on for the accord," he told journalists.

Micheletti's government had shown every sign of determination to hold out until November presidential elections, gambling that the world will accept the new order after the polls. Honduran political analyst Juan Ramon Martinez said Micheletti might be trying to float a more flexible image to the outside world while entrenching his position inside Honduras, where there have been large marches in favor of keeping Zelaya out.

But if the United States, Honduras' biggest trading partner and an important military ally, were to impose more sanctions, some in Honduras might begin to feel the cost of holding out was too high.

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