Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Waiting Game

In case anyone wants to see the TV interview with Marco Caceres of Project Honduras, the coordinating body for all US non-profit and faith-based efforts mentioned a few days ago, here it is: http://projecthonduras.com/interview. (By the way, Marco has a pony-tail.) It’s heartening to hear, so far, that most private humanitarian missions are going forward as planned and that the Peace Corps has not pulled out of Honduras.

Below is an article from the NY Times that I missed before. No surprise, the US is involved behind the scenes. But it does seem that the US could have sent in someone with Spanish fluency, instead of an English-speaker and his interpreter. He might be the most politically savvy guy in the world, but not speaking the language creates a barrier and makes US intervention that much more obvious and awkward. Then, no matter what the outcome, the US will be blamed, despite the effort to focus attention on Arias.

Also shown is an article by Senator Mel Martinez that appeared in the Miami Herald. He recommends involving Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez, something I suggested earlier on these pages.

Numerous articles in Spanish appear on Honduras appear on the cubaencuentro.com website, some listed below, followed by a full article posted on July 13. One of the headlines says that Mexico offers Zelaya political asylum.

The full article quotes Micheletti as saying he is willing to accept an amnesty for Zelaya if he will confront the justice system, and if the Micheletti faction is found to be in error, they are willing to admit it and go to jail themselves. He also expresses full faith in the imparciality of Ocar Arias. However, the article also implies that talks will not resume for several days. Finally, responding to threats by Chavez to send in his army, Micheletti warns that such an action will convert 7 million Hondurans into citizen-soldiers defending their country.
Honduran Rivals See U.S. Intervention as Crucial in Resolving Political Crisis
Published: July 12, 2009

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica — When President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica set out to find a negotiated solution to the Honduran political crisis, he hailed it as an opportunity for Central Americans to show they could resolve their own problems, and he established some simple ground rules.

The ousted president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, and the man who leads the de facto government that replaced him, Roberto Micheletti, were each to show up at his house with just four of their closest Honduran advisers.

On Thursday morning, Mr. Micheletti showed up with six, adding an American public relations specialist who has done work for former President Bill Clinton and the American’s interpreter, and an official close to the talks said the team rarely made a move without consulting him.

Then on Friday, with the negotiations seemingly going nowhere, Mr. Arias reached out for American support of his own, telling Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that pressure from the United States was crucial to ending the stalemate.

In the two weeks since the coup against Mr. Zelaya, the Obama administration has taken great pains to distance itself from the crisis as part of an effort to make the United States just one of many players in a region that it has long dominated. And Latin American leaders have publicly expressed support for what they describe as Washington’s new spirit of collaboration. Privately, and not so privately, however, it has become clear that leaders on all sides of this crisis see the United States as the key to getting what they want.

In recent days, Mr. Zelaya and his allies, who include some of the most vocal critics of United States policy in the region, have repeatedly called on Washington to increase its pressure on Mr. Micheletti by recalling its ambassador — the United States is one of the few countries in the region that continues to keep its envoy in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital — and by imposing tougher sanctions.

Even Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, made a rare call to Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon Jr. on Friday to directly make an appeal he had issued earlier on television. “Do something,” Mr. Chávez had said to reporters. “Obama, do something.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Micheletti has embarked on a public relations offensive, with his supporters hiring high-profile lawyers with strong Washington connections to lobby against such sanctions. One powerful Latin American business council hired Lanny J. Davis, who has served as President Clinton’s personal lawyer and who campaigned for Mrs. Clinton for president.

And last week, Mr. Micheletti brought the adviser from another firm with Clinton ties to the talks in Costa Rica. The adviser, Bennett Ratcliff of San Diego, refused to give details about his role at the talks. “Every proposal that Micheletti’s group presented was written or approved by the American,” said another official close to the talks, referring to Mr. Ratcliff.

With or without the presence of foreigners, Mr. Arias faces long odds against success. Mr. Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti refused to meet face to face and left the talks before the end of the first day. And while there was less hostility between the two delegations on Day 2, an official close to the talks said Mr. Arias was unable to get the groups to agree on a date for the next round of talks or even to shake hands in front of the throngs of reporters gathered outside his home.
“He told them, the Palestinians and Israelis were enemies for generations, and their leaders shook hands,” an official said, referring to Mr. Arias. “You all were friends until two weeks ago. And yet you cannot make one symbolic gesture?”

But people who are familiar with the talks — diplomats, lawyers and government officials who attended the meetings or monitored them from offices in Costa Rica, the United States and Honduras — said the sessions produced at least one important breakthrough: leaders on both sides of the divide moved beyond their blustery statements so that mediators could identify the real obstacles to a peaceful compromise.

Among the most intractable of those obstacles, said three officials close to the talks, was Mr. Micheletti. While Mr. Zelaya indicated that he was willing to accept a compromise that would return him to office with significantly limited powers, the officials said, it appeared that Mr. Micheletti believed he could run out the clock and hold on to the presidency until his country’s presidential elections in November.The officials said Mr. Arias told Mrs. Clinton that the United States had to make clear to Mr. Micheletti that elections held by an illegitimate government would themselves not be considered legitimate.

However, one official said that the United States wanted to be careful “not to take a huge public role.” He said the United States indicated that it would quietly make clear to Mr. Micheletti that the $16.5 million it has already suspended in military aid could be expanded to include $180 million in other economic development assistance that is still under review.

Mr. Micheletti’s supporters are pushing back in part by paying hundreds of dollars an hour to well-connected Washington lawyers who have initiated a charm offensive from Washington. On Friday, Mr. Davis was testifying on Capitol Hill in support of Mr. Micheletti’s de facto government. And on Saturday, Mr. Davis called reporters close to midnight to notify them that Mr. Micheletti had fired Enrique Ortez, whom he had appointed as his foreign minister, for having outraged American officials by referring in a television interview to President Obama as “that little black guy who doesn’t even know where Tegucigalpa is located.”
Mon Jul 13, 2009 8:19 am (PDT)

Monday, 07.13.09
Foundations of democracy being dismantled
BY MEL MARTINEZ, MiamiHerald.com (13 July 2009)

For Latin America, events in Honduras are the tragic yet logical
culmination of the silence of the United States and the inter-American
community to the sustained assault on democratic institutions in that
region.While there may be the possibility of reconciliation in one country, it
does not address the larger dismantling of democracy in the region.

It is hard for many Hondurans, and other pro-democracy activists in the
region, to fully appreciate the outrage and clamor over the ouster of
Mel Zelaya in Honduras when there has not been any significant action in
opposition to the dismantling of democratic institutions and free
societies in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, to name the most visible

Further, it is hard to explain why there was silence in the face of
Zelaya's earlier unconstitutional actions, especially the event that
precipitated his ousting: the storming of a military base to seize and
distribute ballots for a referendum that had been declared
unconstitutional by the Honduran Supreme Court.

This situation was compounded by the United States, which was working
behind the scenes to keep the Honduran congress and supreme court from
using the clearly legal means of presidential impeachment.
Having acquiesced in Zelaya's overstepping of the constitution, the
United States and the inter-American community only speak now.
The conclusion one reaches is that it is unacceptable for other,
separate governmental institutions to protect their country's constitution.
It appears U.S. policy protects a sitting president regardless of a
leader's illegal acts, rather than seeking to protect the larger
constitutional order or democratic institutions.

The crisis in Honduras stems from the failure of its leaders to live
within constitutional boundaries and from the earlier silence of the
United States and international community regarding the abuse of power
by the Honduran executive.Tragically, the United States and the OAS have put Honduras in a position where democracy is again the loser:

If Zelaya returns, this essentially signals approval of his
unconstitutional acts; if he is not allowed to return, then the
unacceptable behavior of forcibly exiling a leader is given approval.
This happens when principles are sacrificed for a policy that can only
be described as the appeasement of authoritarians.

Neither the United States nor other countries in the region or the
international community should be taking sides in this constitutional
dispute, but rather encouraging a resolution through dialogue among

To this end, efforts could be focused on helping Honduras form a
reconciliation government that would include representatives not
associated with either the Zelaya administration or current government.
The good offices of Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez could be one avenue
for this. The objective should be to keep Honduras on track to hold
currently scheduled presidential elections in November with the
inauguration of a new president in January as mandated in the Honduran

The newly elected president, with an electoral mandate, then can decide
whether and how to deal with Zelaya and those involved in his ouster.

As the U.S. Senate takes up President Obama's nominees for key State
Department positions in Latin America, it is time to question the
acceptance by the United States and the inter-American community of the
sustained dismantling of democratic institutions and free societies by
presidents seeking to consolidate personal power at any cost.
This is the larger challenge in Latin America of which Honduras is the
latest symptom.

Born in Cuba, Mel Martinez is a U.S. senator [R] for Florida.

Articles listed on cubaencuentro.com

La Justicia investiga una presunta malversación millonaria alrededor de Zelaya

Expectativas ante la mediación de Óscar Arias y de una posible amnistía

Zelaya se reunirá con Hillary Clinton. México le ofrece asilo político

El show de Zelaya y Chávez y el empecinamiento de Micheletti provocan un muerto y varios heridos

Micheletti, dispuesto a aceptar una amnistía para Zelaya si enfrenta a la justicia
Agencias | 13/07/2009 cubaencuentro.com

El presidente interino de Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, abrió el domingo la posibilidad de una amnistía para Manuel Zelaya, si el depuesto mandatario regresa al país para enfrentar a la justicia, pero advirtió que bajo ninguna circunstancia retomará el poder, informó Reuters. "Bajo ninguna condición (regresará Zelaya a la presidencia)", dijo Micheletti en una sala de la Casa de Gobierno, custodiado por cinco hombres fuertemente armados.

Sin embargo, se mostró dispuesto a aceptar una amnistía si tiene la autorización de la justicia, en la primera señal de que el gobierno interino está preparado a ceder en algunos puntos de cara al diálogo que las partes sostienen con la mediación del presiente de Costa Rica, Oscar Arias. "Yo creo que sí (...) Nosotros debemos buscar la paz y eso (la amnistía) es parte de ello. No tenemos ningún inconveniente", dijo, en el marco de las conversaciones para superar la crisis política más grave de Centroamérica en las últimas dos décadas.

Micheletti, juramentado por el Congreso horas después de que Zelaya fuera expulsado del país por militares a punta de fusil el 28 de junio, es un viejo rival de Zelaya que en el pasado no logró el apoyo de su partido para postularse a la presidencia. Si el poder judicial declara inocente a Zelaya "tiene el derecho a retornar aquí y nosotros ir a la cárcel porque cometimos un error, pero estamos totalmente seguros que lo que se hizo fue enmarcado en la ley", afirmó.Sin embargo, el Congreso y la Corte Suprema fueron precisamente quienes ordenaron el derrocamiento de Zelaya con el argumento de que en su intento por modificar la Constitución incurrió en delitos de traición a la patria, abuso de poder y corrupción.

Micheletti se mostró satisfecho por la "imparcialidad" de Arias como mediador en el conflicto y dijo que las conversaciones abiertas entre las partes para buscar una salida negociada a la crisis política se reanudarán "en aproximadamente de 8 a 10 días".

El gobernante interino aseguró que las elecciones presidenciales se realizarán el 29 de noviembre como está planeado, y mantuvo la posibilidad de adelantar los comicios como una posible salida al conflicto político que ha dividido a Honduras."Yo creo que no es descabellado (adelantar elecciones), que puede ser una solución para este problema", dijo al reiterar que los comicios diluirán el malestar interno y la presión internacional que llevó a la Organización de Estados Americanos a suspender al país del organismo.

Micheletti, un empresario de 60 años que milita en el mismo Partido Liberal que Zelaya, responsabilizó al presidente venezolano, Hugo Chávez, por la crisis política que ha sacudido al país más pobre del continente detrás de Haití y Nicaragua.

Muchos en Honduras creen que la alianza de Zelaya con el líder socialista venezolano fue el inicio del conflicto, que se agravó con el derrocamiento del líder hondureño el día que había convocado una consulta popular con la que al parecer buscaba abrir el camino a una eventual reelección. Chávez es el gran daño que ha sufrido la democracia en Honduras. A él le responsabilizamos de cualquier incidente, de cualquier invasión que puede haber aquí en Honduras, de cualquier país. El es el responsable hoy y va a ser responsable siempre", aseguró

El mandatario interino señaló que no temía a una invasión por parte de Venezuela u otros países y advirtió que en esa eventualidad el pueblo hondureño se armará para defender su soberanía. "(No) tengo la menor duda que los siete millones de hondureños nos convertiremos en soldados", dijo desafiante.

El presidente venezolano, que impulsa una alianza de gobiernos izquierdistas para contrarrestar la influencia de Washington en la región, amenazó con derrocar a Micheletti e incluso con acciones militares contra el país centroamericano, mientras que responsabiliza a Estados Unidos de lo sucedido.

Partidarios de Zelaya han empleado algunos de los apodos despectivos con los que Chávez se ha referido al mandatario interino para escribir letreros sobre las paredes contra Micheletti por toda la ciudad. En la misma esquina de la Casa de Gobierno se puede leer "Goriletti", pegada a otra que dice "Mel, el pueblo está contigo".

Honduras volvía este lunes poco a poco a la normalidad, con las marchas a favor y en contra de Zelaya cada vez menos frecuentes y concurridas, luego de días de agitadas protestas en las que murió un seguidor del derrocado mandatario en un enfrentamiento con militares.

El gobierno interino levantó el domingo el toque de queda que regía desde el día del golpe.

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