Saturday, July 18, 2009

Recipe for Disaster in Honduras

Until recently, I’ve tried to avoid mounting my soapbox in this blog, and was genuinely unsure about what I hoped would happen there. But after my previously expressed apprehension at seeing Zelaya and Honduras being sucked into the Chavez-Castro orbit, I should explain, because now that appears to be where this whole thing is headed. I don’t believe everything Chavez and Castro have done is deleterious to the population—poorer people may have benefited to some extent, though, I would argue, much less as time goes on and much less than government propaganda advertises. That’s the problem, the total control of everything, including the media, control of voting if elections are even held, and, more than that, the regime’s focus on remaining in power in perpetuity at any cost, so that becomes the overriding aim. GW Bush, damaging as he was, could finally be voted out of office, along with his party. But the Castro regime has been in place more than 50years and still routinely arrests and imprisons dissidents and Chavez, who promised to step down when he term was over, is still there after more than 10 years so far. Presidents of other countries aligned with him are attempting to head in the same direction. Once they are able to consolidate their power, it becomes increasingly difficult for the population to oust them.

It has now come to light that Zelaya won the presidency by the narrowest of margins because of the secret support of an American financier who now regrets his choice(see yesterday’s blog), another bizarre twist in a typically Central American saga that would be absurd if it weren’t so tragic in its real life consequences. And it is troubling, as Jorge Ramos pointed out in yesterday’s column, that virtually all Latin American presidents roundly condemn the “coup” in Honduras, but are silent about non-democratic actions in their own and neighboring countries, especially in left-leaning countries. Is this because Chavez oil subsidies are buying their silence? All the more reason to wean ourselves off of oil dependency.

Honduras avoided being caught up in the civil wars that roiled the region in the 1980s and let’s hope it avoids such a conflict now, though the prospects do not look good. If any harm comes to Zelaya or if he is arrested going back to Honduras, that could be a recipe for disaster. But his return is also a recipe for disaster. Zelaya seems hell-bent on fomenting a “revolution” in Honduras. Already, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan cadres are said to be mobilizing inside the country, standing by to give him logistical support and organize his followers in a not necessarily peaceful manner, perhaps even supplying them with weapons.

However he enters Honduras, Zelaya will have to reveal himself and then the fireworks will begin. Apparently, he is becoming impatient with the talks in San Jose and fearful that he may have to concede too much. He is gambling that he can win it all with a “revolution” and with backing from Chavez and Co.

One of my readers has this to say bout the article about American financier Andersson in yesterday’s blog: Build libraries, fine, wonderful. Branch out into "shenanigans" -- that's going too far. Surely Lobo was no prize. But it's feckless at best for Andersson, having admitted to having Lobo's defeat as his true aim, to now say what a jerk Zelaya turned out to be. It was his responsibility as a king-maker to thoroughly vet his guy. Either he didn't do due diligence (which is what it sounds like -- with hindsight, at least, one certainly could have predicted that Chavez and Morales would be in Zelaya's face immediately) or he was bullshitted by Zelaya himself (in which case he had no business messing in someone else's election -- just keep building libraries and let the people who live there figure things out for themselves).

(See articles below.)

Ousted Honduras leader gives talks until midnight
By FREDDY CUEVAS and FILADELFO ALEMAN, Associated Press Writers, Sat Jul 18 7:27 am ET

An ultimatum from ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya left little room for compromise in U.S.-backed talks Saturday aimed at resolving a crisis that has become the latest test for democracy in Latin America.

Zelaya, who was forced into exile in a June 28 military coup, gave negotiators meeting in Costa Rica until midnight to restore him to office, threatening to return to Honduras in secret and attempt to retake power on his own if no agreement is reached. He indicated he would reject any power-sharing agreement, a proposal to be discussed at the talks.

"If at that time, there is no resolution to that end, I will consider the negotiations in Costa Rica a failure," Zelaya said at a news conference Friday night at the Honduran embassy in Nicaragua. "I am going back to Honduras, but I am not going to give you the date, hour or place, or say if I'm going to enter through land, air or sea."

He did not say what steps he would subsequently take. But earlier this week, he said Hondurans have a constitutional right to rebel against an illegitimate government. His foreign minister, Patricia Rodas, said Thursday that if the talks failed, Zelaya would return to Honduras to install a parallel government "to direct what I will call the final battle."

The interim government has vowed to arrest Zelaya if he returns. The military thwarted his attempt to fly home July 5 by using vehicles to block the runway, preventing his plane from landing in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.
Zelaya's allies said the Costa Rica talks might be the last chance to avert a clash, perhaps even civil war in the impoverished Central American country. Zelaya supporters have staged near daily protests demanding his return, including about 2,000 who blocked two highways connecting Tegucigalpa to the Caribbean and Pacific coasts for several hours Friday.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who is mediating the talks, had appeared optimistic about a resolution earlier Friday, saying both camps had "softened, and I think we are going to find more flexibility." In the first round of talks the two sides agreed only to meet again. Arias, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for helping to end Central America's wars, has presented a series of possible compromises to both camps, including a power-sharing deal in which Zelaya could return to serve out the remaining months of his term as president, but with limited power.

Zelaya suggested he would reject such a plan. "I cannot accept a reward for the coup leaders because that would be an aberration," he said. Arias also said an amnesty deal for Zelaya was possible.

Honduras' Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for Zelaya before the coup, ruling his effort to hold a referendum on whether to form a constitutional assembly was illegal. The military decided to send Zelaya into exile instead — a move that military lawyers themselves have called illegal but necessary. Many Hondurans viewed the proposed referendum as an attempt by Zelaya to push for a socialist-leaning government similar to the one his ally Hugo Chavez has established in Venezuela.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley called Friday for all nations to support the talks. He also appeared to allude to remarks by Chavez, who has warned of the possibility of civil war in Honduras and said that "in the next few hours, Zelaya will enter Honduras and we'll see what the gorillas are going to do" about it.

"No country in the region should encourage any action that would potentially increase the risk of violence either in Honduras or in surrounding countries," Crowley told reporters in Washington. Interim President Roberto Micheletti has said Zelaya might try to sneak in by crossing Nicaragua's jungle-cloaked border with Honduras, but the ousted leader was still in Nicaragua's capital late Friday.
Micheletti told Colombia's RCN Radio that his government was open to dialogue but argued that Zelaya committed crimes against "the economy, the citizenry and against the constitution" and could not be allowed to return to power. Micheletti said he was willing to move up the presidential election scheduled for November as a way out of the crisis. Micheletti, the congressional president who was sworn in to replace Zelaya after the coup, also said he would resign "if Mr. Zelaya stops inciting a revolutionary movement in the country and stops trying to return here."
Supreme Court President Jorge Rivera, who under the constitution would be next in line for the presidency if Micheletti resigned, said an amnesty for Zelaya could be considered as part of the negotiations. But if Zelaya enters the country without amnesty, he should be immediately arrested, Rivera said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Zelaya's deadline for the coup leaders to back down falls at the start of the 30th anniversary of Nicaragua's July 19, 1979, Sandinista revolution that toppled dictator Anastasio Somoza.

Some Terms Reached in Honduras Dispute

New York Times July 17, 2009

WASHINGTON — The chief negotiator for the political standoff in Honduras said Thursday that the two camps in the crisis had agreed to a number of compromises, including the formation of a so-called unity government and amnesty for crimes committed by both sides.

But, the negotiator warned, the two sides were still far apart on the central point of contention — the reinstatement of the ousted president — making it unlikely that they would reach a deal when talks formally resume this weekend. Indeed, tensions between the camps remain high, with the deposed president threatening to sneak back into the country and the de facto government enforcing a curfew after warning that armed groups were planning a rebellion.

The negotiator, President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said both sides had agreed to some form of unity government that would include members of all political parties and serve as a check on presidential powers. Fears that the deposed president, Manuel Zelaya, was trying to subvert the Constitution and extend his tenure were a driving force behind his ouster last month.
The two sides have also agreed to amnesty, Mr. Arias said, both for those who ousted Mr. Zelaya and for Mr. Zelaya himself, who has been threatened with arrest if he returns to Honduras. The de facto government of Honduras says Mr. Zelaya was legally removed based on a warrant for his arrest. But nations around the world, whether through the United Nations General Assembly or the Organization of American States, have denounced his ouster as an illegal coup.

Roberto Micheletti, the interim president in Honduras’s de facto government, said Wednesday that he would step down, but not if Mr. Zelaya returned to power. Mr. Arias dismissed that option, saying there would be no agreement without the president’s reinstatement, even if it meant Mr. Zelaya went back with significantly limited powers. Both sides have agreed, however, to invite international monitors to watch over the next presidential elections, which are scheduled for November, Mr. Arias said.

Despite the gulf that remains over Mr. Zelaya’s return to power, Mr. Arias said that he expected “some significant advances” when talks resume this weekend in Costa Rica, though he cautioned that whatever ground had been reached could dissolve. The first round of negotiations got off to a shaky start last week, when Mr. Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti left hours after they began and never met face to face.

Hundreds of Zelaya supporters blocked highways in Honduras on Thursday, as Patricia Rodas, the former foreign minister under Mr. Zelaya, said the ousted president was “on his way” back to the country, without specifying when or how he would enter, The Associated Press reported.

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