Sunday, August 30, 2009

Stalemate Continues, Honey and Leo again

Have been posting less frequently now since there is less "new" news to report.

As mentioned previously, a reader in California who visited Honduras recently correctly identified “Honey and Leo,” the pseudonyms of a couple located in a very remote part of the country as described in my book. How would I have ever imagined that would happen? When the reader asked me to get in touch with them to forward some photos, I agreed. “Honey” then sent me a warm message, asking me to please visit them at the ranch again. Yes, that would be fun, but I would feel guilty, not because anything I said was untrue, but because it was only too true, but not particularly flattering. In fact, I omitted a few tempting tales from the book to protect confidentiality and people’s feelings, but too much of that and there would be no story. Because of my descriptions of Dra. Jeanette, Marina’s son Roger, and Mango Man, I did not distribute any copies of my book in the south during last Feb.’s visit because I knew they would look for themselves and ask for translations of those portions. I only gave the book to folks around La Esperanza. It’s a dilemma when writing a non-fiction book about actual people how much to reveal, even when not using real names. I cannot tell a lie and wanted readers to have an accurate picture. I don’t mind revealing myself, but it’s tricky when it comes to others, even those living in faraway Honduras.

Our local Tiempo Latino reported that the OAS delegation left without a deal on Zelaya’s return, the stated aim of their visit. The headline declared OEA: mision en punto muerto (OAS: mission at dead end). However, there is a photo of Insulza shaking hands with Micheletti, presumably at the start of the visit.

Micheletti has since offered to step down and let the next person in line take over as long as Zelaya does not come back to the presidency. At least that way, Zelaya could get back to his ranch and family and Micheletti would not be the focus, but it would be hard for Zelaya not to rally his followers and keep them from making mischief, whether or not he was president.

However, since the article reporting on that offer came out (see below), both the OAS’s Insulza and Zelaya have roundly rejected any deal that does not return Zelaya to office. So, it’s back at stalemate. The Obama administration has been slowly ratcheting up sanctions—first, voting with the OAS to suspend international loans, then the withdrawal of US military aid, next the cancellation of high-profile visas, and now the cancellation of almost all visa issuances, even to ordinary citizens. There seems to be an effort not to inflict too much additional damage on the majority of Honduras, who live in an already impoverished country which has lost aid and loans from other sources, now receiving mainly US humanitarian aid. However, NGOs are continuing to function.

Honduras Offers Deal on Zelaya
Interim President Would Resign if Ousted Leader Gave Up Claim
By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 28, 2009

Two months after the president of Honduras was removed in a coup, the country's interim ruler offered Thursday to resign and accept the ousted leader back into the country -- as long as the exiled politician gives up his claim to the presidency, officials involved in the negotiations said. The offer, made privately at a meeting in Washington, was immediately rejected by the secretary general of the Organization of American States, which has been helping to broker the discussions, according to one of the interim government's top negotiators. But the negotiator, Arturo Corrales, said he was hopeful the proposal would nonetheless break a deadlock in the talks. "It's the starting point for the conversations," he said.

Ousted president Manuel Zelaya's ambassador to the OAS, Carlos Sosa, said late Thursday: "We don't accept this. . . This is an effort to keep winning time and make it seem like they're talking."

The surprise offer came as the Obama administration was examining stiffening penalties against Honduras's de facto government, which has resisted diplomatic efforts to restore the leftist president to power.

Zelaya was detained by the military on June 28 and whisked out of the country. The coup was denounced by all countries in the hemisphere, which are grouped in the OAS, and by the OAS secretary general, Jose Miguel Insulza. However, many Hondurans, particularly from the upper and middle classes and the powerful political parties, have opposed Zelaya's return.

So have some Republicans in the U.S. Congress, who note that Zelaya was removed after the Honduran Supreme Court ruled that he had broken the law by organizing a referendum that could have allowed him to evade the one-term presidential limit. Zelaya is a close ally of leftist President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who has tried to create an anti-U.S. bloc in Latin America.

President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica led OAS-backed negotiations on a deal that would allow Zelaya to return with reduced powers.

According to the new proposal, interim leader Roberto Micheletti would resign, as would Zelaya, and the person next in line in the constitutional order would take over the presidency. Zelaya could return home, but would not be permitted to finish his term, which ends in January. Micheletti would support amnesty for anyone involved in political crimes related to the coup, including Zelaya. Until now, Micheletti has said Zelaya would face potential prosecution if he returned.
"We regard this as a significant change in Mr. Micheletti's policy, and his willingness to immediately resign shows that this is not about his power, but it is about the rule of law," said Lanny Davis, a former White House official in the administration of President Bill Clinton who now represents a group of Honduran businessmen seeking a negotiated solution to the crisis.

Since the coup, the United States has cut off about $35 million in assistance to the country. In addition, it has revoked the U.S. visas of several top officials and this week halted the issuance of most temporary visas, including those for Honduran tourists and business travelers.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

OAS HR Commission Departs, OAS Delegation Arrives, Keeping Hotels Busy; US Stops Issuing Visas

Tourism may be down in Honduras, but delegations keep arriving and media and press observers remain. Meanwhile, the US Embassy has stopped processing most visas requests. I feel for Hondurans, who pay $100 for a visa interview scheduled months ahead. Now, their interviews are cancelled and planned to trips to the US have been put on hold.

One of my correspondents, actually commenting on the OAS Human Rights Commission delegation of last week rather than the separate OAS delegation now in Honduras, made the following observations. (We shall soon see what this second OAS group accomplishes and how hard they press.) At least luxury hotels in Teguc are enjoying some business! So the OAS fizzled in Honduras. Isn't it kind of looking as though nobody wants to really put a hand in the fire for Zelaya? It was at best untactful, at worst a deliberate thumb in the eye, to have a Venezuelan head the OAS delegation. Or so it would appear; maybe there was an institutional reason for it. Similarly, the language ("coup" and "de facto government") could have been more diplomatic. But I should think Micheletti and his people could have let the first go as a perfunctory attempt to establish dominance and the second as being true, if perhaps less legitimate-sounding than "interim." More interesting is Zelaya's dissatisfaction. It almost looks like the delegation swooped in, peed on a couple of posts, and swooped out, having done nothing to restore Zelaya, to seriously chastise the interim government, or to raise a hue and cry about the deaths in the demonstrations. If the delegation -- or whoever's calling the shots at the OAS, maybe even Insulza -- recognized that it's not their place to do substantive meddling in the affairs of a member state in which a potentially volatile situation is under control, it could have been their intent to put in an appearance, make some obligatory noises about Zelaya's legitimate issues, and hurry away before they could be accused of attempting to impose a solution.

New York Times,
Wed. August 26, 2009
Honduras: U.S. Embassy to Stop Issuing Most Visas

The United States will stop issuing most visas at its embassy in Tegucigalpa, the capital, a measure intended to increase pressure on the de facto government of Honduras to accept an agreement to restore the country’s ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, to office. Seven Latin American officials ended a mission to Honduras on Tuesday that failed to win any concessions. Washington suspended about $18 million in military aid after the June 28 coup, but activists have urged the United States to take stronger measures.

Delegation seeks Zelaya's return in Honduras visit

Associated Press
Monday, August 24, 2009 3:46 PM

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Foreign ministers from seven nations launched a direct, high-profile attempt on Monday to persuade Honduras' interim government to restore ousted President Manuel Zelaya. The delegation from the Organization of American States was the most prominent group of officials to visit Honduras since Zelaya was arrested and hustled out of the country on June 28, prompting outrage from governments worldwide.

The foreign ministers - from Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama and the Dominican Republic - made no public comments on arrival, but Mexico's Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa told the Mexican newspaper Reforma that they want to hear from Hondurans before deciding what steps to take next. "We have hope that through dialogue and negotiation we will find a solution to the crisis in Honduras," Espinosa said in an interview published Monday. OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza accompanied the group.

The OAS is pressuring the interim government to accept a plan proposed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias that would return Zelaya to power until new elections are held by the end of November.

The government headed by interim President Roberto Micheletti has repeatedly refused that plan, arguing that it would trample on rulings by the country's Supreme Court and Congress. "To impose a president legally removed from the presidency, it's an option that the Honduran Constitution does not allow," said Honduran Foreign Minister Carlos Lopez in a letter published Monday in Honduran newspapers. He also rejected the possibility of granting Zelaya amnesty. "As powerful as some governments may be, they shouldn't try to impose their will on our nation," Lopez wrote.

Micheletti, who has withstood weeks of diplomatic isolation and the suspension of international aid, insists that Congress legitimately removed Zelaya from office for ignoring court orders to drop efforts to change the Honduran constitution. Many Hondurans saw Zelaya's backing of a constitutional assembly as a backdoor way of erasing the ban on re-election and heading toward socialist rule like that of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Zelaya, whose term expires in January, denies plotting to remove term limits or the ban on re-election.

Some 2,000 Zelaya supporters took to the streets Monday, marching peacefully through the capital.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

OAS HR Commission Ends Honduras Mission

Since I have a busy work week ahead, don’t despair if a few days go by with nothing new appearing on this blog. Please keep your replies and questions coming. I will get back to you as soon as possible

There’s a report out of Kenya regarding the development of a solar-powered mobile phone. The diffusion of that technology throughout the developing world will mean another boost for the communications revolution. Already in Honduras, cell phones have spread wherever towers exist, but charging them is a problem where there’s no electricity. I mentioned earlier in these pages that patients attending our medical brigade would bring their cell phones to charge at outlets in the solar-powered classrooms where we were doing consults. Even Honduran subsistence farmers will go to great lengths to have cell phones, which save them arduous treks to deliver messages in person. I also reported that a call from the mother of Sandra, a girl operated on for a recurrent leg tumor, was cut off in mid-sentence, perhaps due to lack of battery power. Using solar power to charge cell phone batteries is revolutionary, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly. Solar energy needs to be tapped for other applications.

According to Saturday’s (August 22, 2009) El Nuevo Herald, the Miami Herald’s Spanish-language version, neither side is happy with the OAS Human Rights Commission preliminary report on its visit to Honduras. The interim government complained that the mission was headed up by a Venezuelan and that the action against Zelaya was erroneously referred to as a “coup” and the Micheletti administration, as the “de facto” government. That four people were reported killed in demonstrations was declared by an interim government official to be unsurprising, given the need to maintain public order. For its part, the Zelaya faction considered the visit too short and regretted that no mention was made about returning Zelaya to power.

In the same issue, the Honduran supreme court announced its intent to process Zelaya, should he return. Also, the Brazilian senate went on record opposing the effort of Venezuela to join the South American Mercosur trading partnership (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay), citing its anti-democratic actions, and the Paraguayan senate is reportedly considering following suit.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Zelaya Ready to Sign S. Jose Accord, OAS Going to Honduras to Convince Micheletti, US Honduran Consulates Suspend Services, My Book Arrives in Geneva

Someone living in Geneva who ordered my book on July 4 from Amazon’s publishing arm, BookSurge, after was unable to send it there, reports that it has finally arrived. He paid $8 shipping and the postmark is from New Zealand! Other overseas readers have been completely unable to order the book. This is unfortunate, as I have contacts all over the world. In some cases, I’ve sent the book myself, but, depending on the country, it has not always arrived.

Our DC Hispanic press reports the suspension of Honduran passport and consular services in the US due to a dispute about who is officially authorized to dispense such services, whether Zelaya or Micheletti loyalists. The interim government has cut off all funds, causing pro-Zelaya protesters to appear in small numbers outside the local Honduran consulate carrying a Honduran flag.

In the last blog, I reported the regrettable news of arrests and mistreatment of demonstrators who have been blocking streets and burning tires in major cities—I’m assuming in the two largest cities, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. Demonstrators are angry that Zelaya has not returned and are determined to keep up the pressure. The interim government seems equally determined not to allow Zelaya’s return without a judicial proceeding, probably an arrest, which would really energize Zelaya supporters and undoubtedly trigger even more violent confrontations. Zelaya’s supporters not only consider themselves in the right, since he was duly elected and is internationally recognized, but most of them sincerely believe he has a better plan for the country than his opponents. Of course, as mentioned in my book regarding pre-Zelaya-era demonstrations, there are always criminals and anarchists taking advantage of demonstrations to destroy property and break into stores. Additionally now, sympathizers from neighboring countries and Venezuela have swelled the ranks of demonstrators.

However, Zelaya’s call to the military and police to break ranks and side with him has gone unheeded, at least so far. If those sectors fail to be paid on time, they may well defect to the Zelaya side. Yet since the demonstrations have been occurring daily for almost two months now, it’s not surprising that incidents of demonstrator injury and even deliberate brutality have occurred. Now, with the arrival of the OAS Human Rights Commission, more such reports will be forthcoming. The answer, of course, is to broker a settlement that both sides can live with that will halt the demonstrations. However, so far, each side seems to have hardened its position and demonstrator injury is only hardening it even more. There seem to be only two mutually exclusive possibilities: either Zelaya returns to office or he does not. And it’s still a long time until the end of November and even longer until the end of January, when Zelaya’s term officially ends. Yet if the interim government manages to stay the course, it will contend that it has saved the nation from entering the communist orbit and an unholy alliance with Hugo Chavez. It is noteworthy that the interim government, despite being suspended by the OAS, has allowed Amnesty International and the OAS Human Rights Commission entry into Honduras, while Cuba, newly re-admitted to the OAS, has refused such bodies access for more than 50 years.

Regarding the last blog, one commentator has this to say: If the authorities are saying that demonstrators are being arrested for engaging in violence and being provocative, I'm sure that's what they mean. Almost any kind of disorderly conduct can be termed "violence" if it's done in the middle of a busy street in a nation's capital. And it's hardly news that military or law enforcement authorities can be provoked by actions that may not be real offensive per se but in the context of a demonstration can easily be interpreted as deliberately provocative. Then a demonstrator says, "I was only chanting with the others when this cop grabs me and about jerks my arm off," and the cop says, . . .

I'm inclined to disagree with the Amnesty lady who saw the violence against the demonstrators as a form of punishment first and only secondarily as a deterrent. I'd be tempted to call it first a measure of crowd control and then a deterrent. What motive would the army or the police have to punish the demonstrators, who are their fellow citizens? Teach them a lesson, maybe, but "punishment" is imprisonment; getting roughed up in the course of a demonstration where passions are high is simply a chance one takes.

The Spanish-language version of the Miami Herald (below) reports that Zelaya has announced his readiness to sign the San Jose accord worked out with Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. Five OAS delegates are going to Honduras to convince the interim government to do the same. (The accord would allow Zelaya to return with limited powers and no right to succession and would provide for amnesty for both sides.)

El Nuevo Herald, publicado el jueves 20 de augusto del 2009

Zelaya quiere firmar acuerdo de San José en Tegucigalpa

El presidente hondureño Manuel Zelaya desea firmar la semana entrante el acuerdo de San José, diseñado para revertir el golpe de estado que lo sacó del poder, informó la vicecanciller del gobierno derrocado Patricia Licona. "No podemos seguir dando dilatorias al acuerdo de San José. Esperamos que inmediatamente después de la reunión de cancilleres (prevista para la próxima semana) el presidente Zelaya firme el acuerdo y se proceda a la restitución, por eso hablamos de una fecha máxima para el 1 de septiembre", dijo el jueves Licona a la AP.

La Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA) designó a cinco cancilleres de la región para que viajen a Honduras y convenzan al gobierno de facto a acoger el Acuerdo de San José, una iniciativa planteada en su rol como mediador en la crisis por el presidente costarricense Oscar Arias.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Yes, My Book Is On Kindle, Amnesty Targets Police Brutality

The following message came into my blog, but I will answer it here in case others are interested. Yes, my book is available on Kindle, in Amazon’s electronic version. I’d appreciate it if anyone who gets the Kindle version lets me know how it reads and whether the photos came out OK.

Hi Barbara;
Really enjoy your posts. Please keep them coming.
How about some details on your book. Would like to read it. As I am into eBooks is there any chance to get an electronic version?

For people who want to get a preview of the book’s contents, there are always the Amazon reviews and would-be readers can also access a random page on Amazon. Anyone who would like to see a couple of reviews, one from the Washington Post, the other from Peace Corps Writers, can just contact me via my Yahoo address (listed on this blog) and I will send them as attachments.

Another commentator says: From the favorable things said about him that you posted earlier, Insulza seemed to have been a statesmanlike figure who was passionate about moving the South forward, out of poverty and ignorance and away from corruption and great wealth. He may see himself as the only such leader around.

It's not easy to come up with a happy ending for Honduras in the near future. I'm sure your [Latin American] correspondent is right that no matter what happens next, things will only get worse. I'd been under the impression for years that U.S. influence in the region was waning, as evidenced by the failure of OAS members other than the U.S., and sometimes Canada, to speak out against human rights and other abuses of the Castro regime. If the U.S. had so much clout, wouldn't the many aid-seeking Central and South American countries be more interested in making a favorable impression on Uncle Sam than on supporting a dictatorial regime on a little island that was not a threat to them? Obviously I've missed something here.

Your correspondent has called it exactly with the statement that if the U.S. continues an even-handed policy (i.e., no sanctions), it will be criticized by the left; if it moves a millimeter in the direction of the Micheletti government, there'll be accusations of hypocrisy. More than a millimeter, and the cries of "U.S.-backed coup!" will start up again. It will be interesting to see how Obama, who's shown himself majorly indifferent to domestic criticisms of being too chummy with the likes of Chavez, will react to chastisement from the left.

Film preview: NEW YORK (Reuters) - With a rolled-up mat slung over his back, Honduran 14-year-old Kevin climbs aboard a Mexican freight train for a 1,450-mile (2,330-km) journey to the U.S. border -- a perilous ride spotlighted by a new documentary. "What I've always dreamed of was to be in the United States. Most of the children in Honduras, they grow up with that idea," Kevin says in "Which Way Home," a film that will be broadcast on U.S. cable network HBO Monday.

Barbara talking again here.
I've heard before about brutality being meted out to Honduran protesters, but give more credence now when Amnesty is behind the report, as per the one below, issued via CNN. Unfortunately, in such a standoff, clashes are inevitable and, frankly, given the level of violence "normal" in Honduras, I'm actually surprised they haven't been even worse. Not that it is to be brushed aside, only that it is not unexpected.

(CNN) -- In the seven weeks since the military-backed bloodless coup in Honduras, several hundred people protesting against the de facto government have been arbitrarily arrested and beaten by government forces, a new Amnesty International report says. The report, released Wednesday, said the beatings were meant to punish those who opposed the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya in June. It includes testimony from, and photographs of, several people who were baton-whipped and detained by police officers who sometimes wore no visible identification and hid their faces behind bandanas as they broke up demonstrations.

"They beat us if we raised our heads; they beat us when they were getting us into the police cars," said a student whom Amnesty International interviewed in late July at the police station where he was being detained."They said, 'Cry and we'll stop.'"
Multiple requests to the government for comment went unanswered. The government has said in the past that the demonstrators were arrested for engaging in violence and provoking authorities.

The Honduran political crisis stems from Zelaya's defiant push to hold a referendum that could have led to extending term limits by changing the constitution. The country's congress had outlawed the vote and the supreme court had ruled it illegal. He was ousted in a coup on June 28. The congress named Roberto Micheletti provisional president shortly after the military detained Zelaya and sent him into exile. Micheletti and his supporters deny that a coup took place, calling the action a constitutional transfer of power.

The coup resulted in unrest throughout the country, with frequent clashes between police and military on one side and civilian protesters on the other. At least two people were shot to death, Amnesty said.

Among several examples, the Amnesty report quotes F.M., a 52-year-old teacher, who said he was demonstrating peacefully when police descended on the rally. "They grabbed me and shouted, 'Why do you (all) support Zelaya's government?' They beat me. I have not been informed as to why I am detained." He showed deep-red imprints on his back, which he said were from a beating with a baton.

"Detention and ill treatment of protesters are being employed as a form of punishment for those openly opposing the de facto government and also as a deterrent for those contemplating taking to the streets to peacefully show their discontent with the political turmoil the country is experiencing," said Esther Major, Amnesty's Central America researcher.

The following article entitled “Micheletti shuts the door on Zelaya” from the Spanish version of the Miami Herald quotes Micheletti as saying that Zelaya may return only if he submits himself to the judicial system.

Micheletti le cierra las puertas a Zelaya, publicado el martes 18 de augusto del 2009

El presidente de facto de Honduras declaró el lunes a McClatchy que no aceptará ninguna propuesta que permita el regreso al poder del derrocado presidente Manuel Zelaya, como parte de las negociaciones para solucionar la crisis política de su país.

Roberto Micheletti, que fue nombrado presidente interino después de que el alto mando militar envió a Zelaya por la fuerza a Costa Rica el 28 de junio, dijo que si Zelaya regresa lo arrestarían y acusarían de 18 cargos por infringir la Constitución. "La única forma de que el presidente Zelaya puede regresar es si se entrega al sistema judicial'', dijo Micheletti.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Reader Meets "Honey and Leo" in Honduras

Now my book has 15 reviews on, getting ever closer to 20, which I understand conveys some advantage. A woman identified as “Maddie” who posted a review a while back added to it recently, mentioning that she (and her husband) traveled to Honduras and actually met the couple I call Honey and Leo in the book. She and her husband happened to meet them in San Juan, the nearest village to the ranch. The former PCV who served in El Salvador, mentioned earlier on this blog, also just a posted a review.

Below, the Micheletti government is ordering the expulsion of Argentine diplomats. However, an earlier attempt to expel the Venezuelan ambassador failed when he refused to leave.

Honduras orders expulsion of Argentine diplomats
Associated Press
Tuesday, August 18, 2009 5:03 PM

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Honduras' interim government ordered Argentine diplomats Tuesday to leave the country in three days, sending a defiant message ahead of a visit by six foreign ministers who are seeking the restoration of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. The Foreign Ministry said the diplomats were ordered to leave in response to Argentina's decision to expel the Honduran ambassador, who has recognized the government of Interim President Roberto Micheletti. It was another signal that Micheletti will not budge on international demands that Zelaya be restored to power.

Argentina is among six countries planning to send their foreign ministers to Honduras in a bid to revive negotiations - a visit that was postponed last week after the interim government said it did not want the Organization of American States chief to join the mission. No new date has been set. It was the second time the interim government ordered the expulsion of foreign diplomats since soldiers flew Zelaya into exile in a June 28 coup condemned worldwide. Venezuela's envoys have also been told to leave but have refused, saying they will not recognize an order by the coup-installed government.

The left-leaning governments of Venezuela and Argentina have been among the most vocal in demanding Zelaya's return to power, warning the coup has set a dangerous precedent for Latin American democracy. Micheletti, who has withstood weeks of diplomatic isolation and the suspension of international aid, insists that Congress legitimately removed Zelaya from office after Zelaya ignored court orders to drop efforts to change the Honduran constitution.

In Nicaragua, meanwhile, Zelaya sought to remind the world of his status as Honduras' internationally recognized president. He appointed a new charge d'affairs to the Honduran embassy in Nicaragua and released a statement vowing to continue "the heroic struggle against the coup-installed regime."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Interim Government Curbs Unrest, Perils Lie Ahead

While Honduras remains divided, my book is moving along. I now have 14 reviews on, getting closer to 20, which, I understand (hope), makes my title come up more quickly when someone is searching. More good news: my book will be recorded by the Library for the Blind. I had wanted to read it myself, but the whole endeavor, including use of the machinery, intimidated me and so I agreed to let the experienced readers there do it. The director of the volunteer readers, a remarkable 95-year-old man, said he wanted to read it himself, as it looked interesting. He’s been to Honduras and knows Spanish, albeit, he admitted “with a gringo accent.” I hesitated because of that and also because I thought a female voice would be better for my memoir, but, in the end, he convinced me. I’m so very busy, it would have been difficult to get downtown to the recording studio at the MLK Library and would have taken me forever to complete the book. Even then, I was warned that my recording might not be of sufficient technical quality to send out nationally. That’s when I gave in to leaving the book there to be read, as I do want it distributed nationally, since blind readers may be especially interested in the last portion about my involvement with the blind center and blind school. I suppose once a listener gets into the book, the gender of the reader is relatively unimportant and most will not know enough Spanish to care of the reader has a gringo accent. While I was at the library, I looked in the online card catalog to see if my book, which had been donated to the library system in March, was listed yet; it was not and may actually have been lost in the system.

Glad to know, by your feedback, that I still have a few faithful readers, even as the Honduras situation continues unresolved. My Latin American commentator has a gloomy forecast, which I do not dispute. I wish I had faith that either Zelaya or his opponents could achieve improvements in the quality of life for most Hondurans, but I think they are both bad news. Zelaya has aroused hope among a substantial segment of the poor, but I doubt he can deliver in the long term and not without sacrificing certain values and liberties Hondurans now take for granted. Nothing in life is easy. Here’s what my blog commentator has to say: It is going to get worse. The Honduran de facto government is going to try to run out the clock and the Latin American left is going to try to take advantage of the opportunity to either pressure the US into ratcheting up sanctions (cutting off economic aid or trade) or criticizing the US as the hidden author of the coup and/or as a hypocrite.

After the upcoming OAS mission to Honduras has no results you can expect a renewed effort to get the OAS to recommend obligatory cutting off of aid and trade. Insulza has already been told that the US will not back his reelection as OAS Secretary General and his only hope of staying in office is leading a more radical effort to sanction Honduras so he can win the leftist countries' backing for his reelection. The leftist countries in Latin America would also love to force the US to sanction Honduras or to disregard an OAS decision for increased sanctions. Either way the left wins.

If the US follows an OAS vote to ratchet up sanctions, the left has taken control of the OAS and the US control over its activities is over. If the US does not back increased sanctions and/or does not follow a vote to that effect that is approved:

1- The OAS is wrecked as an organization;, the US influence in Latin America will hit a new low.

2- The ALBA accord as a Latin American Organization that excludes the US will become more viable alternative to the OAS.

So expect a move to raise sanctions by the OAS that will place the Obama administration in a difficult position.

And the internal struggle is heating up, as per the following article:
Honduras charges Zelaya supporters with sedition
Associated Press
Friday, August 14, 2009 8:21 PM

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Two dozen supporters of Honduras' ousted president were charged with sedition Friday in an intensifying crackdown on protests against the coup-installed government. Protests to demand the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya turned violent in the Honduran capital this week, with police firing tear gas and demonstrators fighting back with sticks and stones. Some protesters attacked the vice president of Congress, although he wasn't injured. Some 24 demonstrators were charged with sedition and damaging private property, said Melvin Duarte, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office. Another four were charged with aggravated arson and terrorism in the burning of a bus and a restaurant. Interim President Roberto Micheletti condemned the clashes as "violent and terrorist" and vowed his government would no longer tolerate street blockades and other disruptions.

Zelaya, a timber magnate who veered to the left midway through his presidency, was ousted by the army June 28 and flown out of the country. Micheletti, the former congressional president chosen by lawmakers to replace Zelaya, has refused to consider reinstating the ousted leader despite worldwide condemnation and the suspension of millions of dollars in U.S. and European development aid.

Micheletti insists Zelaya was legally removed from office through a congressional vote for defying court orders to drop plans for referendum asking voters if they would support rewriting the constitution. Zelaya's opponents accuse him of seeking to extend his term in office by removing a constitutional ban on presidential re-election, as his ally Hugo Chavez has done in Venezuela. Zelaya, whose constitutional four-year term ends Jan. 27, denies that was his intention.

Protest leader Eulogio Chavez accused the interim government of persecuting demonstrators and denied that the four charged with burning the bus and restaurant committed those acts. The demonstrators were charged three days before human rights monitors from the Organization of American States are scheduled to arrive in Honduras. Days later, several Latin American foreign ministers are due to visit the country in an effort to jump-start stalled negotiations aimed at ending the crisis.
Four delegates of Micheletti's government returned to Honduras on Friday after meetings in Washington with OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza and U.S. lawmakers. The delegates called the meetings positive but gave no hint about whether the interim government might budge on the issue of Zelaya's return. "We explained to everyone in detail what happened in Honduras before, during and after June 28," delegate Mauricio Villeda told reporters. "With Insulza, we had private conversations and we explained what happened in the country and our right to live in democracy and peace."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Demonstrations in Teguc, Zelaya in Chile

Before launching into what’s happening in Honduras, I’ll mention that my Kenyan visitors left today. I was sad to see them go. And all the time they were packing and bumping their multiple suitcases down my delicate pine, 100+-year-old stairs, I had to be on the phone on urgent asylum interviews for my work. During one, I heard the doorbell ring insistently twice, but I couldn’t interrupt my interpretation call and the Kenyans didn’t seem to hear it. It turned out that it was the notice of an important package that Anderson, one of the Kenyans, was expecting to take back with him, but it required a signature and no one answered the door. So, when the embassy van arrived to take them to the airport, we rode around, stopping various mail carriers, but none had his package. Finally, we went to the PO and he signed the slip over to me and I will go tomorrow or the next day to pick up his package to mail to him and we’ll cross our fingers that it will arrive safely. I am not very trusting of mail to and from developing countries, though once a man in Kenya mailed me a $100 bill for his wife who was here and it arrived safely.

As asylum-case interpreters, we are not allowed to give any details of the cases or mention the countries involved, so, even though petitioners are not identified, I won’t. But I can say generally that the stories of lawlessness, threats, rapes, rivalries, impunity, and lack of trust in the police are depressing and distressing. We have corruption, bribery, lying, police misconduct, and all manner of crimes in this country, but people in Latin America, especially poor people, seem to suffer daily, even hourly, from threats and assaults—or so they say. The asylum officers question them very rigorously and note even small discrepancies in their testimony. Sometimes the women are reduced to tears.

When a new democratically elected Honduran president takes office (presumably after an election with international observers), sanctions will be lifted and OAS membership restored. But between now and November, when Honduran elections are scheduled, and even more between now and January, when the new president takes office, is a very long time for the country to be in limbo, limping along with greatly reduced support. It’s not as though Honduras has any reserves to speak of, and it was suffering from reduced remittances from relatives in the US already. So the tight economy is being squeezed even tighter. Yet, outside the capital, the situation seems to have calmed. Despite Raul Castro’s recent outburst, accusing Obama of orchestrating the “coup,” and Zelaya’s continued travels around Latin America looking for support, the regional effort to restore Zelaya seems to be losing some steam. Even Chavez has been quiet lately, though maybe he’s scheming something and no doubt he is supporting the current stepped-up protests in Teguc. Obama’s neutral stance may be justified as a way to avoid further conflict. Let’s see what happens if and when the OAS mission actually gets underway.

Whenever a post of mine comes out with a grammatical or spelling error or improper spacing (a little tricky on this blog), I wince at the mistake, and beg your indulgence. Below, demonstrations in Teguc continue and Zelaya continues his travels around the Latin America.

Honduras protests continue, as Zelaya visits Chile
Associated Press
Thursday, August 13, 2009 4:36 PM

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Thousands of Hondurans supporting ousted President Manuel Zelaya protested in the nation's capital on Thursday, as a U.S. diplomat prepared to meet representatives of the government that has been in power since a military coup.
Zelaya, who was rousted from his home at gunpoint in June and flown into exile by Honduran soldiers, spent the day in Chile, his latest stop on a Latin American tour he hopes will solidify backing from the region's governments. Chile's President Michelle Bachelet received Zelaya with head-of-state honors and reiterated her government's recognition of him as the democratically elected president of Honduras. "We will continue to support all actions" aimed at restoring Zelaya to the presidency, said Bachelet, whose country saw a CIA-backed coup in 1973 that ushered in the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

On Wednesday, Chile refused to recognize Honduran ambassador Francisco Martinez - who has reportedly declared himself an ally of interim President Roberto Micheletti. The Honduras coup has been widely condemned around the world, and the United States and the European Union have called for Zeyala's return to the presidency. Micheletti's interim government has refused to consider Zeyala's restoration - which is a key provision of an accord proposed during talks mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The Organization of American States, which has suspended Honduras, is planning a mission to Honduras in hopes of reviving that accord. In preparation, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Sara Mangiaracina said Thursday that a group representing Micheletti was scheduled to meet with Lew Amselem, the U.S. representative to the OAS. Mangiaracina did not know the names of the Honduran officials but said they were not part of the de facto government. She said OAS head Jose Miguel Insulza asked that Amselem meet with the delegation to further negotiations. She had no other details.

Zelaya recently traveled to Brazil, Mexico and other nations seeking support.
While Zelaya presses his case abroad, some 10,000 protesters arrived in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday after staging weeklong walks across Honduras, producing one of the largest demonstrations in support of the ousted president. On Wednesday those protests turned violent during clashes with police. On Thursday about 5,000 protesters gathered in front of the heavily guarded offices of federal investigators, demanding information about the whereabouts of 27 Zelaya supporters arrested the previous day.
The following is a press release from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, an organization under the OAS but separate from it. The commission will visit Honduras starting next Monday, Aug. 17 and will leave on Friday, Aug. 21. Members of the delegation are named below. They will be staying at the Intercontinental Hotel in Teguc, taking testimony of human rights abuses related to the coup. (The Intercontinental is perhaps the fanciest hotel in the capitol.)

No. 58/09


Washington, 12 de agosto de 2009 La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos
Humanos (CIDH) iniciará el lunes 17 de agosto su visita in loco a Honduras a
fin de observar la situación de derechos humanos en el contexto del golpe de
Estado del 28 de junio de 2009, y recibir denuncias. La delegación estará
compuesta por la Presidenta de la CIDH, Luz Patricia Mejía; el Primer
Vicepresidente, Víctor Abramovich; el Segundo Vicepresidente y Relator para
Honduras, Felipe González; el Comisionado Paolo Carozza; el Secretario
Ejecutivo, Santiago A. Canton, y personal de la Secretaría Ejecutiva.

Durante su visita entre el 17 y el 21 de agosto, la CIDH establecerá su sede
temporal en el Hotel Intercontinental de Tegucigalpa, ubicado en la Avenida
Roble frente al Mall Multiplaza, donde la Comisión recibirá denuncias sobre
violaciones a los derechos humanos ocurridas en el contexto del golpe de
estado. Asimismo, la Comisión Interamericana se trasladará a diferentes
regiones del país y presentará sus observaciones preliminares al término de
su visita.

La suspensión de Honduras del ejercicio de su derecho de participación en la
Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA), decidida el 4 de julio de 2009
por la Asamblea General Extraordinaria de la OEA, no modifica las
obligaciones contraídas por el Estado al firmar la Convención Americana y
otros tratados interamericanos de derechos humanos. La CIDH continúa
procesando peticiones, casos y solicitudes de medidas cautelares de ese

La CIDH es un órgano principal y autónomo de la Organización de los Estados
Americanos (OEA), que deriva su mandato de la Carta de la OEA y la
Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos. La Comisión está conformada
por siete miembros independientes que actúan a título personal, sin
representar a país alguno en particular, y que son elegidos por la Asamblea
General de la OEA.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Arias Has Swine Flu

AP reports that Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, the Honduras mediator, has a mild case of swine flu, so is temporarily out of commission. Zelaya, now drumming up support in Brazil, is calling on the US and Obama to do more to return him to power.

One of my readers compares the medical brigade that took him to Honduras to the IHS brigade in which I participated: The Shoulder to Shoulder (STS) brigades, at the least the one I was on, focused on children's health. We traveled to isolated villages, checked height, weight, hematocrits, gave them vitamins, parasite meds, varnished their teeth, gave them tooth brushes, and taught them how to use them, checked vision, and finally they got a physical from a doc/resident/med student. Occasionally we brought a kid into the clinic for follow up. These kids are followed every 6 months. While in the area, we made house calls on patients known to the clinic. One was at a house with 2 profoundly handicapped kids, both physically and cognitively. They were well cared for, no bed sores. There was a small coffin stuck up in the rafters; the American funeral business "pre-need" industry would be proud. There was an OT in our brigade who also looked in on some other kids with orthopedic problems and I think another kid had muscular dystrophy. STS also distributes folic acid to child-bearing age women. Each village has a "madre guia" who attends charlas on health issues, gets a month's supply of folic acid for each woman she is responsible for, then goes home to distribute the meds and share the info from the charla. Like the IHS brigade, volunteers are expected to pay their own way, about $850 for 2 weeks, plus air fare. STS provided food and a place to sleep, spartan dorms at the clinic compound. Sounds a lot like the Peace Corps, only shorter. I urge people to participate in such missions, especially if Peace Corps service is just too long for them. And you don’t have to be a medical practitioner to join a medical brigade. You can be an interpreter as I have been or even just a general helper, dispensing medications or eyeglasses, cleaning up. Of course, you will have to pay for your own travel and expenses, but its still cheaper than a standard vacation and more meaningful.

The Spanish version of the Miami Herald quotes Zelaya as saying that Obama could restore him “in five minutes” if he chose to do so. Recently in Mexico, asked about Honduras, Obama said just what I did in my last blog, that Latin Americans don't want Big Brother USA intervening, so he isn't doing so.

If Insulza really wants to resolve this matter, he should swallow his pride and agree to Micheletti's terms, despite the slight to his dignity of being a mere “observer.” I imagine that the interim government sees the OAS visit as chance to tell their side of the story, rather than necessarily as an opportunity to arrive an agreement, especially one that allows Zelaya’s return. They will try to show that it’s business-as-usual in most of the country. I'm not sure if the OAS mission requires the participation of Arias, now down with swine flu.

A blog reader has pointed out a column in the Wall St. Journal entitled The FARC's Honduran Friends. The column specifies a connection between the Honduran Partido de Unificacion Democratica (the only one that supports Zelaya's return) and the FARC. Reportedly, it states that one of Chavez's reasons for wanting Zelaya back in Honduras is that he (Chavez) supports the FARC all over the hemisphere. Not only were Swedish-made antitank rocket launchers originally sold to Venezuela seized by the Colombian military in a raid on a FARC camp, but, according to a GAO report, Venezuela "has become a major transit route for Colombian cocaine, 60% of which is exported by the FARC.”

Wow! I almost had to laugh at the article below from the Spanish-language version of the Miami Herald. It’s so predictable. I sincerely doubt that it’s true, because the Obama administration genuinely seemed to be caught by surprise by the Honduran “coup”--Hillary reacted precipitously. And if the US had been behind it, I’d like to think it would have been a more thoughtful operation. But Latin American leaders and intellectuals may believe it anyway because Obama has not come down hard in favor of Zelaya. And why should he? He has bigger fish to fry. Chavez and Zelaya are anti-US, no friends of ours and no friends of democracy.

And truly, the US is only one country made up of flesh-and-blood human beings just like everybody else, people who make mistakes (like GW Bush and those who voted for him), a nation that failed in Vietnam and is struggling in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as confronting issues with Canada-Mexico, Iran, Israel-Palestine, North Korea, Burma, and Africa, among others, not to mention huge domestic challenges. Yes, the US is the only superpower, but it is not omnipotent and omniscient and Obama is not Superman. Still, many people in Latin American will believe Raul Castro, just as many believe that Fidel Castro has been the great savior of the Cuban people. Of course, the historic record of the US vis-à-vis Latin America is not good, but history does not always repeat itself. Micheletti must be fuming at this accusation.

The article says that Raul accuses the US of being behind the Honduras coup. He alleges that on the one hand, Obama denounces the coup, on the other, he supports the coup-makers. He let the gorillas out of the cage because he has the key. “Everyone” knows that no coup can takes place in this hemisphere without the authorization of the US, including of the Obama administration.

Raúl Castro acusa a EEUU de estar detrás del golpe en Honduras, El Nuevo Herald, 8-10-09

El presidente cubano Raúl Castro acusó al gobierno de Estados Unidos de ser el responsable del golpe de estado en Honduras, porque considera que nadie protagonizaría un hecho como ese "si no recibe la autorización" de Washington. El mandatario dijo que el gobierno del presidente Barack Obama ha mostrado una doble actitud: "por un lado vemos un presidente condenando el golpe y por el otro lado, el apoyo" a los golpistas.

El golpe en Honduras se dio "en la forma típica ... el presidente Obama condenando el golpe pero no aparece quién abrió la jaula a los gorilas. Ya se va sabiendo porque todo se sabe en este planeta. Los de siempre, los que tienen la llave, porque en este continente nadie da un golpe de estado si no recibe la autorización de los Estados Unidos, además del gobierno de Obama".

Monday, August 10, 2009

OK, Insulza Can Come, but Only as an “Observer”

Peace Corps Service at Any Age

Since so many mid-career employees are being laid off these days, I would hope that at least some would consider joining the Peace Corps. While I’ve always supported the PC for young people, because of its formative influence on their future career and personal development, I also urge it for experienced folks because they potentially have more to offer. A mid-career break or even later PC service can be enriching and life-affirming, regardless of age. I became an on-call Spanish interpreter for the first time at age 66, after I returned from my extended term in the PC. I’d never thought of doing that before, but now, for me, at age 71, it’s the perfect part-time career, helpful to my clients and with each encounter a new adventure. While hospital and rehab center work is my preference, I also accept assignments involving appeals of denial of unemployment benefits, divorce proceedings, motor vehicle license suspension appeals, juvenile justice matters, and mental health sessions, in short, the whole spectrum of human experience. I also will do political asylum requests, but usually avoid immigration court, for reasons mentioned in my book. As my book frankly recounts, PC service can be challenging—it’s right to call it “The toughest job you’ll ever love.” But the rewards are usually greater than the sacrifices. Truly, the Peace Corps proved beneficial to me, even after I had been battered by a series of personal misfortunes, not only a divorce and job layoff, but the untimely deaths of my son and foster son. If someone like me can do it after all that, so can you!

Honduras Developments
OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now and return to the Honduras crisis. My Cuban commentator is back: Given the Micheletti administration’s decision to negotiate only on their terms and not to receive an OAS delegation going there to insist on its capitulation, the Obama administration is facing a quandary. Either it backs up the OAS and ratchets up sanctions one more notch, cutting off all US economic aid or placing a trade embargo on Honduras or it will risk losing its credibility and political prestige in Latin America. Deciding to wash its hands and let the Honduran factions fight it out might be politically safe in the US but externally it will be seen as Machiavellian, hypocritical and totally disrespectful to the OAS and the inter-American system. So the ball is in Obama's court and it’s a tough call, but he has got to decide one way or the other! Like a Cuban song states, "Como quiera que te pongas tienes que llorar!" [Whichever way you go, you’ll be crying.]

To this correspondent and others, I again say thanks for your continued comments. The US has not cut off humanitarian aid, as I said before, only military aid. That's about the only international aid that's still getting through. (And maybe a little from Taiwan, which has considerable investments in Honduras.) Contrary to his advice, Obama seems to have decided to do nothing for now. There is no violence to speak of, the country is surviving--albeit with difficulty--and come January, maybe this whole thing will blow over. Remember, Latin Americans have long urged the US to not meddle in regional affairs, so it's pretty ironic that Chavez and Zelaya are shouting, "Obama, do something!" The middle way in most things seems to be Obama's way. What does the US have to gain by aggressively interfering in Honduras? It will anger one side or the other, as our commentator indicates, and Hondurans seem pretty evenly and strongly divided. The US Congress is also divided on the issue. Of course, everyone knows that the US could force Zelaya's return if it really wanted to. But that could well trigger more violence and even bloodshed. Now, after pressure, no doubt from the US and other sources, Micheletti has agreed to accept the OAS delegation, as long Insulza, a strong Zelaya supporter, comes only as an “observer.” Let’s see if, finally, a mutually acceptable agreement can be worked out.

Honduras accepts OAS chief as 'observer'

Associated Press
Monday, August 10, 2009 1:07 AM

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Honduras' interim government backed off its refusal of a visit by foreign delegates aimed at resolving the country's political crisis. The negotiators are welcome as long as Jose Miguel Insulza, head of the Organization of American States, participates only as an "observer," the Foreign Relations Ministry said in a statement Sunday.

The government of interim President Roberto Micheletti has objected to what it calls a "lack of objectivity" by Insulza - a vocal advocate of restoring President Manuel Zelaya to office after he was ousted in a June 28 coup. The ministry said the visit - originally planned for Tuesday - will now be rescheduled for a date "that will be decided in the next two days."

The statement by the Foreign Relations Ministry came just hours after the government had postponed the visit, objecting to the inclusion of Insulza in the group. The delegation organized by the OAS also includes the foreign ministers of Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

It was not the first time that diplomatic efforts to resolve the coup appear to have been delayed or drawn out by the interim government. It has dallied over a proposed compromise plan presented by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who served as mediator in the dispute, while rejecting the main point, Zelaya's reinstatement in office. The Washington-based OAS, a long-established hemispheric body promoting democracy, development and legal cooperation in the Americas, named the delegation on Friday.

The group's mission is to try to persuade Micheletti to negotiate with international mediators, which Insulza described as a "continuation of Oscar Arias' work." The interim government countered that Insulza not only insisted that he accompany the delegation but also failed to include foreign ministers who might be open to "reconsidering our position." Neither Insulza nor the OAS immediately commented.
From the beginning, Insulza and the OAS as a whole have harshly condemned the coup and said that any solution to the crisis must include Zelaya's restoration to office. The organization later voted to suspend Honduras from its ranks. The interim government, however, had already said it would quit the organization rather than meet its demands.

Despite the suspension of millions of dollars of U.S. aid and the threat of more sanctions, interim leaders have made clear they expect to hold out until the Nov. 29 elections. Coup backers hope the election will calm international demands to restore Zelaya, whose term ends Jan. 27.

Soldiers arrested Zelaya and flew him into exile in Costa Rica after he ignored a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum asking Hondurans if they wanted a special assembly to rewrite the constitution. Zelaya is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election. Opponents say his real motive for the referendum was to abolish term limits so he could run again. Zelaya denies that was his intention. Micheletti, the courts and the military generals all insist no coup occurred because Zelaya was arrested on orders of the Supreme Court and replaced by an act of Congress.

The interim government acknowledges that sending Zelaya into exile wasn't legal, though it says that was necessary for his security and to prevent unrest. But it says everything else it did was according to the Honduran Constitution.

Below is an article I missed earlier.

August 8, 2009
Senator Fears Letter Sends Wrong Signal on Honduras

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is concerned that the Obama administration’s efforts to placate Republican critics of its policy on Honduras were giving the impression that American support for the restoration of the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, had begun to weaken. Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the committee chairman, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, said Friday that the senator was worried that a State Department letter to Republican legislators “risks sending a confusing signal” about the United States’ support for negotiations aimed at restoring Mr. Zelaya to power.

The State Department sent a letter this week to Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, who had warned that key State Department appointments — including the assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs — could be held up unless the Obama administration gave lawmakers a “detailed clarification” of the steps it had taken, and intended to take, in response to the coup in Honduras, as well as to the political conflict that led to it.

There are significant disagreements in Congress over how to respond to the Honduran crisis, and the threats over the confirmations have evolved into a proxy fight over Honduras. Democrats support a negotiated deal that would let Mr. Zelaya return as president with limited powers. But Republicans back the contentions of the leaders of the de facto regime, who say Mr. Zelaya brought about his own downfall by organizing an illegal referendum to try to extend his term.

On June 28, Mr. Zelaya was rousted from bed by soldiers who put him on a plane to Costa Rica. With support from the Honduran Congress and the Supreme Court, the military handed power to a de facto government led by Roberto Micheletti. The Obama administration joined governments around the world in condemning the coup, and it cut off some aid to bolster demands that Mr. Zelaya be returned to power. The United States has also supported a compromise offered by President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica, who is mediating the dispute, that would permit Mr. Zelaya to complete his term with reduced powers.

However, in the letter to Senator Lugar on Wednesday, the State Department seemed to distance itself from Mr. Zelaya, criticizing his “insistence on taking provocative actions” that contributed to the crisis and saying that the administration’s policy “is not based on supporting any politician or individual.” The letter angered Latin American leaders, who were already critical of what they considered a weak response by the United States. The United States has not withdrawn its ambassador and has avoided stronger economic sanctions, saying it was concerned about destabilizing the third poorest country in the hemisphere.

President Obama told reporters on Friday that he continued to support the reinstatement of Mr. Zelaya, but that the United States would not act unilaterally, Reuters reported. “I can’t press a button and suddenly reinstate Mr. Zelaya,” Mr. Obama said, the news agency reported. In Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, however, the State Department’s letter was celebrated by the de facto government as a sign that it was winning a battle of wills within the administration.
In another development on Friday, the Organization of American States announced that it would send a delegation of foreign ministers, led by Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, to Tegucigalpa on Tuesday.

Antonio Tavel, the president of Xerox in Honduras, echoed the views of many in the Honduran business community when he said the Obama administration’s tough talk had softened in the six weeks since Mr. Zelaya’s ouster. And he said that the steps taken by the United States to put pressure on the de facto government — suspending $16.5 million in military assistance — had had little effect. “I hate to say it,” he said, “but their bark is worse than their bite.”

Sunday, August 9, 2009

OAS Disinvited

Most of my Honduran correspondents, especially outside the 2 major cities, say that life is pretty normal except for higher fuel prices and long lines at gas stations. But, of course, most people don't own cars and subsistence farmers aren't terribly affected, often living without electricity and running water anyway, so their energy needs are nil and they work only to feed their families. They depend more on rain than on Zelaya's return.

On my blog yesterday, I posted a statement (in English) from a woman representing business interests, saying that life in Honduras is basically normal now and it's a good time for outsiders to invest. (I doubt many are doing so.) Also, apparently the minimum wage was not doubled, as I had been told, but only raised by 60%, still a substantial amount that benefited Peace Corps volunteers as well as others. Still, raising it from about $6 to $9.60 a day, as mentioned in the NYTimes article below was not a guarantee. I know of many workers not getting $6 per day before and children under the legal working age, of which there are many in the labor force, certainly are not being paid the minimum wage. Who is going to enforce it? Apart from public employees, only workers for big companies in major cities are getting it, I suspect. American clothing manufacturers are probably complying, as they are almost the only foreign companies regularly paying taxes.

Obama obviously is trying to walk a middle line in Honduras--his preferred strategy in everything--not trying too hard to force Zelaya back and not being too heavy-handed as the US super-power, rather letting regional forces try to work things out. The OAS, after jumping in quickly with both feet to condemn the "coup," was planning to make a visit this week, acting a little less aggressive than when Insulza and company tried to land a plane carrying Zelaya at the Teguc airport. But now Micheletti is saying that the OAS delegation can come, but without Insulza, their chief (see below). So Zelaya and Chavez, who have vehemently denounced US intervention before in Latin America, are pleading, "Obama, do something!" Obama is politely ignoring them.

It's quite legitimate for the US to steer a middle path above the fray and let those affected fight it out. The US and Obama have enough other problems to confront. I kind of agree with Obama, let’s not get involved, because the US will be the bad guy either way we go (and is also the bad guy for not taking a firm side). Hopefully, come January, whether or not Zelaya returns, this matter will be basically over and done with. It's interesting that Pepe Lobo, whom Zelaya barely defeated in the last election, thanks to the financial and strategic help of American financier Allen Andersson (who is sorry now), is now running again. It's a classic Banana Republic saga. I just hope it all ends without too much bloodshed and hardship.

Of course, strikes by teachers, nurses, and other public employees are routine in Honduras, not helpful to the economy, health care, or the education of the young, but they happened often when I was in the Peace Corps and sometimes lasted for months, so the current strikes in support of Zelaya are nothing new. And it’s quite true, as the Times article points out, that as many people were killed at a recent soccer game as at all the demonstrations over the last few weeks. The daily death toll in Honduras from murders, accidents, and preventable illness, especially among babies, far surpasses the one or two deaths of demonstrators over a month and half. The security forces are to be commended for restraint, in my view. Because of the relatively high birth rate—though it is falling—the population still continues to grow despite the frequent loss of life. (Read my book for more details.)

Many thanks, as always, to my faithful readers for continually adding to this blog, most via my personal e-mail rather than on the website itself. I’ve learned a lot, and my readers too, from our exchanges. One reader has responded in detail to my last post, although, regarding her speculation about international loan funds, supposedly those funds have all been suspended. Here are her comments: I googled Billy Joya. For sure he's a bad guy and, well aware of his deserved unpopularity, he keeps a low profile. It would appear, however, that despite very convincing evidence of association with Batallion 3-16, the death squad of former days, he hasn't been far from the centers of power of Honduras in the 21st century. Wikipedia points out that he was a senior adviser to Alvaro Romano, another death squad member who happens to have been Zelaya's security minister, a post that would allow ample scope for torture, disappearings, and other inappropriate means to dubious ends. Of course we don't know that Romano did anything improper, but with that piece of the puzzle in place, Micheletti's move to get Zelaya physically out of the country seems only prudent. And now Joya is part of the Micheletti apparat…In any event, at least some members of the Batallion 3-16 hierarchy seem to retain power in Honduras. So it's a question of whether the politicians who accommodate them do so out of ideological agreement or out of fear -- and which reason applies to which politician.

As always, your other readers raise interesting points. For example, with important sources of funding drying up right and left, where is Micheletti getting the money to keep things going? Or, who in the world is granting credit to this small country that was impoverished before the crisis started? Israel is an astute guess. I'd be surprised if direct support is coming from the U.S., although there may be some jawboning/arm-twisting going on in the IMF or the World Bank, likely creditors of Honduras. Obama made a big a point of telling Netanyahu that the U.S. would no longer say one thing in public and quietly pursue another policy. Perhaps, however, his highly regarded flexibility in acknowledgment of new realities has led him to modify this idealistic but probably unsustainable exercise in anti-realpolitik.

According to another reader: If Obama aspires to have credibility and to be respected in the international scene, he must take decisive action to hasten Zelaya's return to power. The Honduran de facto government is brazenly prevaricating and trying to run out the clock and if he allows it, he is going to look like a fool or a hypocrite in the eyes of the international community. If he is sincerely in favor of Zelaya's return, he must take urgent and decisive action to make the coup leaders capitulate or he runs the risk of never being believed again in Latin America.

Something funny is going on; this situation has dragged on for too long! The proper policy if Obama is against leftist influence in Honduras might be to hasten Zelaya's return to power with his hands tied by the Arias mediation agreements and then to back his opponents financially in the coming presidential election campaign with secret funds. But not to do anything now or to make only lukewarm moves is to back a stupid, counterproductive oligarchical strategy that is only resulting in increasing Zelaya's popularity and future political clout and to lose Obama’s political prestige throughout Latin America.

Reporters Freddy Cuevas and Ginger Thompson seem to making names for themselves with this controversy. Both are apparently stationed in Honduras--in Teguc, it would seem.

Honduras prohibits visit of OAS crisis negotiators
Associated Press
Sunday, August 9, 2009 11:24 AM

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Honduras' interim government announced Sunday that it was canceling a visit by foreign delegates aimed at resolving the country's political crisis because it could not accept the participation of a regional official who insists on reinstating the ousted president. Interim President Roberto Micheletti is willing to reschedule the delegation's visit, previously planned for Tuesday - as long as Organization of American States chief Jose Miguel Insulza is excluded, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The Washington-based OAS, a long-established hemispheric body promoting democracy, development and legal cooperation in the Americas, on Friday named the delegation comprising foreign ministers from Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. The group's mission was to try to persuade Micheletti to negotiate with international mediators seeking to return President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a coup on June 28.

But in addition to insisting that he accompany the delegation, Insulza failed to include foreign ministers who might be open to "reconsidering our position," the statement said, which "has made it impossible to hold the visit" now. From the beginning, Insulza and the OAS as a whole have harshly condemned the coup and said that any solution to the crisis must include Zelaya's restoration to office. The organization later voted to suspend Honduras from its ranks. The interim government, however, had already said it would quit the organization rather than meet its demands.

The United States, which also condemned the coup, enlisted Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias, now Costa Rica's president, to broker a solution. Those talks fell apart when Micheletti again refused to reinstate Zelaya. The foreign delegation scheduled to arrive Tuesday was to represent a "continuation of Oscar Arias' work," Insulza said last week.

Micheletti's government "is completely willing to consider a new date for the mission of foreign ministers ... excluding Mr. Insulza, who could be replaced by other OAS officials," the Foreign Ministry's statement said. The statement referred to what it called Insulza's "lack of objectivity, impartiality, and professionalism ... which has resulted in serious damage to democracy, to Honduras" and to the OAS. Neither Insulza nor the OAS immediately commented.
Despite the suspension of millions of dollars of U.S. aid and the threat of more sanctions, interim leaders have made clear they expect to hold out until the Nov. 29 elections. Coup backers hope the election will calm international demands to restore Zelaya, whose term ends Jan. 27.

Soldiers arrested Zelaya and flew him into exile in Costa Rica after he ignored a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum asking Hondurans if they wanted a special assembly to rewrite the constitution. Zelaya is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election. Opponents say his real motive for the referendum was to abolish term limits so he could run again. Zelay denies that was his intention.

Micheletti, the courts and the military generals all insist no coup occurred because Zelaya was arrested on orders of the Supreme Court and replaced by an act of Congress. The interim government acknowledges that sending Zelaya into exile wasn't legal, though it says that was necessary for his security and to prevent unrest. But it says everything else it did was according to the Honduran constitution.

August 9, 2009
President’s Ouster Highlights a Divide in Honduras

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — One woman started a kind of kaffeeklatsch with her high-powered friends that grew into the driving force behind a movement that toppled the Honduran president. The other preferred to stay out of politics until the president’s ouster compelled her to protest. Armida Villela de López Contreras, a lawyer and former vice president, has become one of the most visible critics of the ousted Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya. And Hedme Castro is one of the thousands of teachers who have banded together to demand Mr. Zelaya’s return.
Between them is a yawning political and socioeconomic divide that still threatens the stability of what was once one of the United States’ principal staging grounds in Latin America during the cold war. And what they have to say about how this country’s political crisis began — and about the sacrifices they are willing to make to defend their views — leaves little hope that it will end any time soon.

To Ms. López Contreras, a prominent member of this country’s small upper class, Mr. Zelaya was ousted because his blossoming leftist alliance with President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela had become a threat to Honduran democracy. She is a founding member of a coalition representing some of the most powerful business and political forces in the country. And she says the coalition members are willing to do, or spend, whatever it takes to keep their country afloat in the face of mounting economic pressure resulting from the rest of the world’s condemnation of the coup. “Zelaya was suffocating all other powers of government,” Ms. López Contreras said. “Now that he’s gone we are breathing the air of freedom. This is a conquest we are not willing to surrender.”

To Ms. Castro, who lives a solidly working-class existence, Mr. Zelaya was ousted because people like Ms. López Contreras felt threatened by his efforts to lift up the poor — most notably with a 60 percent increase in the minimum wage to about $9.60 a day from about $6 a day. An estimated 60 percent of Hondurans live in poverty. Last week, Mr. Zelaya’s supporters, led by an estimated 50,000 teachers, tried to put more pressure on the de facto government by keeping schools closed, staging days of demonstrations and blocking traffic along highways around the country’s two major cities. “I don’t think I have ever seen a president like him,” Ms. Castro said of Mr. Zelaya. “Maybe he made mistakes, but he always erred on the side of the poor. That is why they will fight to the end for him.”

While political leaders on both sides have played to the most passionate emotions of their constituencies, everyday life has taken on a surreal tinge here. The de facto government contends that life in the country has returned to normal. But public schools remain closed, troops have been deployed to protect most government offices, clashes between the police and protesters erupt most days, and reports of attacks against the press and government opposition leaders have begun to increase. Most of the news media, both in print and over the airwaves, offer a steady drumbeat of vague accusations of corruption, drug trafficking and insurrection against Mr. Zelaya and his cabinet.

On the other extreme, graffiti portrays the leader of the de facto government, Roberto Micheletti, as “Pinocheletti,” a reference to Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator. Human rights groups accuse the coup-installed government of using “death squad” strategies against its opponents. So far, however, only two people have been killed in the weeks of political strife since the coup; as many people died in unrelated clashes at a soccer game, underscoring the high level of violence in the country.

More than a month after Mr. Zelaya’s ouster, diplomatic efforts to end the political crisis are stalled in off-again-on-again talks that have been mediated by President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica. Political observers said that rather than negotiating in good faith, Mr. Micheletti was using those talks as a way to run out the clock until the presidential election scheduled for November. The latest stalling tactic, they said, came two weeks ago when Mr. Micheletti asked Mr. Arias to send a new international envoy to meet with representatives from different sectors of Honduran civil society. In response to that request, the Organization of American States will send a delegation of foreign ministers to meet with the de facto government on Tuesday.

Those same political observers were critical of Mr. Zelaya, who they charge is playing with political fire, whipping up his supporters with incendiary political stunts along the border between Honduras and Nicaragua. “The problem with the Arias proposal is that neither side really sees it as a solution,” said Victor Meza, who served as Mr. Zelaya’s interior minister. Mr. Meza noted that Mr. Micheletti saw Mr. Arias’s idea of creating a temporary power-sharing government as a way to prolong his power, while Mr. Zelaya was increasingly viewing the compromise as a trap.

Perhaps most poignantly, however, the divide wreaking havoc in this country is embodied by people like Ms. López Contreras, 61, and Ms. Castro, 50. As educated, professional leaders of their communities who came of age at the height of this country’s transition from military to civilian rule, it would seem that they would have a lot in common. In fact, like so many other Hondurans, some of their views still seem frozen in those times. They stand squarely, and somewhat contemptuously, on opposite sides as far as Mr. Zelaya is concerned. Ms. López Contreras speaks with deep conviction when she argues in support of the coup, saying that Mr. Zelaya, whom she described as afflicted with megalomania, had planned to use his powers and popularity to dissolve the other branches of government and to rewrite the Constitution in order to extend his presidency.

Her activism against Mr. Zelaya began in earnest in June, after he refused to obey a court order that prohibited him from holding a referendum to ask voters whether they would support rewriting the Constitution. Gripe sessions with small groups of friends, she said, turned into the formation of a political action committee that led protests of tens of thousands people who marched on Congress, the Supreme Court and military installations to demand that authorities stand against the executive branch’s attempts to override their authority.Their marches, with participants dressed all in white as a symbol of peace and transparency, brought together groups that had previously been adversaries, including the Roman Catholic and Evangelical churches, chambers of commerce and several labor unions, and both of the country’s main political parties. “The poor have always protested, and the rich always speak their minds, but the middle class never protested until now,” Ms. López Contreras said of the demonstrations. “It was as if Honduras woke up.”

The day Mr. Zelaya was ousted, Ms. Castro said, she experienced her own awakening. The principal of an elementary school with about 800 students, she said she was not a supporter of Mr. Zelaya. And before the coup against him, she was not a big supporter of the teachers’ union, which she said was plagued with corruption. But she said that the president’s ouster was an attack on her own freedom. And so she has closed her school and attended every union march and meeting to demand that he be returned to power. “This is not about President Zelaya,” Ms. Castro said. “This is about my country. Many people gave their lives so that we could have a democracy. And we cannot let a group of elites take that away.”

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Yes, No, Maybe So?

A new reader of my book, a PC volunteer in 1970 in El Salvador, just sent this message: Just wanted to let you know that I much enjoyed the book. It stirred up old and not so old memories. My recent trip to Honduras [for a medical brigade] was surprising in it's familiarity given that 40 years had passed since I had been back to Central America. In some ways it felt like I was gone only a short time. What I had forgotten between 1970 and 2009 is the sheer difficulty of getting anything done given the lack of infrastructure and graft/corruption. Your accomplishments were enormous in that context, which I doubt a reader who has not experienced a developing culture first-hand fails to appreciate.

The local Spanish-language press recounts how Zelaya supporters have been converging from all parts of the country on the capitol. At the same time, it reports that Chavez supporters attacked an independent TV channel and injured journalists there. (Later Chavez distanced himself from the attack, reportedly criticizing it.) Nicaragua’s Ortega warns Honduras against any military hostilities (not very likely right now), Ecuador’s Correa denies having received FARC funds, and columnist Jorge Ramos laments the OAS double standard with an article alleging that Insulza’s indignation over Pinochet does not apply to Castro, whom he quotes Insulza as describing as a “charismatic authoritarian.” And as for Chavez’s actions to suppress critics inside Venezuela, he quotes Insulza as saying the OAS has no jurisdiction there. Certainly there is a double standard and the leaders of the Honduran interim government have legitimate fears of falling into that orbit if Zelaya returns. On the other hand, the NYTimes article below about Billy Joya advising the Micheletti government is pretty scary. Micheletti should immediately ditch that guy as an adviser. If he wants to win any allies, he doesn't need that taint.

Someone who regularly reads this blog comments on my last posting: After what he [Zelaya] tried to pull in Honduras, he should be *glad* the U.S. response is "tepid." An administration that hadn't gone to great pains to present itself as shedding the label of American exceptionalist and de facto boss of the hemisphere would have waded in with a big fat "Attaboy!" to Micheletti et al., as well as offers of support and advice on how to mollify highly placed critics, who predictably enough were aghast at the way Zelaya was treated. Then Zelaya would have been whining about U.S. meddling. You're right, of course, that the U.S. can't go against reinstatement. & come to think of it, it may not be premature to get the ball rolling on that. Zelaya does have a grievance in that the constitution forbids the arbitrary exiling of any citizen. If he isn't allowed to resume his office fairly soon, he may decide to file charges against the army. But if he's allowed to go back, escorted securely and courteously by Honduran army regulars, not his ragtag crew of Chavezettis, he'll have less to complain about in the eyes of the world.

Another blog reader speculates that: It looks like the Honduran de facto regime is going to try to run the clock out and hang on to power until handing power over to the next administration after the pushed-forward October presidential elections. At least that was what Micheletti said to the New York Times in the story about next Tuesday's OAS diplomatic mission to Honduras.

Alternatively they could be trying to hold out until one month before the anticipated election (September 29) when the control of the army passes to the Electoral Tribunal to avoid giving Zelaya the opportunity to fire the army high command.

If either of these tactics turns out to be true, I wonder where the de facto regime is obtaining the foreign exchange to carry on now that all foreign military and economic aid and Venezuelan oil has been cut off? In the normal everyday march of human affairs, these guys should have been long gone by now! Where are they getting such unheard of stamina? I believe if the de facto government continues much longer that something fishy must be going on!

Why does not the Obama government or the OAS as a US agent simply just push them over the edge rapidly by applying a temporary trade embargo to Honduras? Why is the de facto Honduran government being allowed to run the clock out? Is it possible that the de facto government could be receiving secret foreign aid from the US or from a US ally (Israel comes to mind) that is allowing the Honduran oligarchy to carry on as usual and continue successfully resisting international pressure and national protests to return Zelaya to power? Could the US be saying one thing and doing another under the table?
If some Machiavellian policy like this ever surfaces, it will make the Irangate scandal look like a mere child’s play and cost the Obama administration all the international good will that it has labored so long to build up!

The item below just came in (in English) from a woman representing business interests in Honduras, trying to counteract the negative investment climate. What she says corresponds with what most people there have told me, that life is pretty normal except for demonstrations that continue in the two largest cities, Teguc and San Pedro Sula, with demonstrators burning tires and blocking roads, and the scarcity of gasoline and diesel at service stations. Of course, subsistence farmers out in the hinterland don’t rely on diesel or the minimum wage and what news they get via radio is sporadic, so I doubt they are feeling much, if any, pinch. Their lives are already pinched, but in a seasonal, local rhythm that doesn’t rely much on the outside world.

Over the past month, the change in government in Honduras has been in the news. You may even have written about it. The political situation is of concern to all Hondurans, and I can tell you that the business community is united in urging a peaceful and quick resolution. Unfortunately, the normality of life in Honduras has not received much media attention. Business here continues to flourish, and people are going about their normal lives – working, relaxing, attending school, shopping, visiting friends and family, going out to eat, and so forth. In short, we are operating as usual. Honduran factories, many in our industrial parks in Free Trade Zones, continue to produce high-quality electrical harnesses, automotive components, textiles & apparel, and many other products for export. Our call centers and other service providers are serving their regional, local and international customers. From Puerto Cortes, our deep water, Atlantic Megaport , operating under the U.S. Container Security Initiative (CSI), shipments of manufactured and raw items are moving regularly to and from the United States and other markets. The country’s four international airports – in Tegucigalpa , San Pedro Sula , Roatán, and La Ceiba – remain fully open for business. Cruise ships continue to visit the popular Caribbean island of Roatán , just off the Honduran coast. In short, Central America’s second largest country remains in perfect position for U.S. companies seeking business and investment opportunities.

Obama says no quick way to end Honduras crisis

Friday, August 7, 2009 8:25 PM

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama said on Friday that he has no quick way to resolve the political crisis in Honduras, where supporters of a coup are refusing to let ousted President Manuel Zelaya return to power. Obama told reporters he still supports the reinstatement of Zelaya, who was overthrown in June, but that the United States would not take unilateral action. "I can't press a button and suddenly reinstate Mr Zelaya," Obama said.

Obama has canceled $16.5 million in military aid to Honduras and has condemned Zelaya's removal, as have Latin American governments and the European Union. But the de facto government headed by Roberto Micheletti, the former head of Congress, appears to be digging in and the country's elite say they will keep Honduras running even if the administration is not recognized by foreign governments. "We would like to see him be able to return peacefully to continue his term, but we are only one country among many and we are going to deal with this in an international context," Obama said.

Zelaya, an ally of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said on Tuesday the United States needs "only tighten its fist" to evict the de facto government. "It is important to note the irony that the people that were complaining about the U.S. interfering in Latin America are now complaining that we are not interfering enough," Obama said.

Implying that support for Zelaya may be weakening, a U.S. State Department letter sent this week to a key Republican U.S. senator said U.S. policy on the Honduras' crisis is not aimed at supporting any particular individual.

Before the coup, Zelaya was pushing for constitutional reforms that included letting presidents seek re-election. His opponents accused him of trying to stay in power, but he denies the allegation. Mediation efforts by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias have so far failed to achieve Zelaya's return, as has pressure from Venezuela's Chavez, a key leader in Latin America. The United States, Honduras' longtime ally and top trading partner, has withdrawn diplomatic visas from key members of the de facto government in a bid to force Zelaya's reinstatement.

Interim Honduras gov't insists Zelaya won't return
Associated Press
Friday, August 7, 2009 8:54 PM

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Honduras' coup-installed president says an OAS delegation traveling to the Central American country next week won't persuade him to allow the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Roberto Micheletti says the diplomats are welcome to come and learn about what led to Zelaya's June 28 ouster, but he vows that "no one will come here to give us orders."
Micheletti insists he will leave the presidency in January, when a new president would take power following previously scheduled elections in November. The delegation includes six Latin American foreign ministers and senior OAS officials. Zelaya's supporters continued nationwide marches Friday to pressure for his reinstatement.

August 8, 2009
A Cold War Ghost Reappears in Honduras
New York Times

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras--The coup here has brought back a lot of Central America’s cold war ghosts, but few as polarizing as Billy Joya, a former police captain accused of being the former leader of a death squad. He didn’t sneak quietly back into national politics. He made his reappearance on a popular evening talk show just hours after troops had rousted President Manuel Zelaya out of bed and loaded him onto a plane leaving the country.

Mr. Joya’s purpose, he said, was to defend the ouster and help calm a public that freed itself from military rule less than three decades ago. Instead, he set off alarms among human rights activists around the world who worried that the worst elements of the Honduran military were taking control. “The name Billy Joya reverberated much more than Micheletti,” Mr. Joya protested, perhaps a little too strenuously, referring to the head of the de facto government, Roberto Micheletti, installed by the military. “Instantly, my image was everywhere.”

Mr. Joya’s conflicting images — a vilified figure who portrays himself as a victim — are as hard to reconcile as his life story. Human rights groups consider him one of the most ruthless former operatives of an American-backed military unit, known as Battalion 316, responsible for kidnapping, torturing and murdering hundreds of people suspected of being leftists during the 1980s. Today, Mr. Joya, a 52-year-old husband and father of four, has become a political consultant to some of the most powerful people in the country, including Mr. Micheletti during his failed campaign to become president last year. Now that Mr. Micheletti has effectively secured that post, Mr. Joya has resurfaced again as a liaison of sorts between Mr. Micheletti and the international media.

Mr. Joya looks straight out of central casting, though not for the role of a thug. He has more of the smooth, elegant bearing of a leading man. And in the 14 years since he was first brought to trial on charges of illegally detaining and torturing six university students, he has undertaken a solitary quest — one that can at times border on obsession — aimed not only at defending himself, but also at vindicating the government’s past fight against Communism.

In 1995, he released a 779-page volume of newspaper clippings, government records and human rights reports meant to substantiate the military’s narrative of the cold war, which essentially accuses its opponents of having blood on their hands as well. And in 1998, after living for a couple of years in exile in Spain, Mr. Joya said he was the first and only military officer to surrender himself for trial. “Not once in 14 years has there been a single legitimate piece of evidence linking me to these crimes,” he said. Referring to human rights organizations, he said, “What they have done is to condemn me in the media, because they know if they proceed with these cases in court, they are going to lose.”

The odds would appear to be on Mr. Joya’s side. In 1989, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights determined that the Honduran military was responsible for systematic abuses against government opponents. Still, in the 27 years since this country returned to civilian rule, authorities say, Honduran courts have held only two military officials — Col. Juan Blas Salazar Mesa and Lt. Marco Tulio Regalado — accountable for human rights violations.

Only about a dozen other officers ever faced formal charges. And most of those cases, like Mr. Joya’s, remain unresolved by a judicial system that remains crippled by corruption. Meanwhile, Mr. Joya has not suffered silently in legal limbo. In some ways, he has hardly suffered at all. His business as a security consultant and political adviser to some of the most powerful elected officials and businessmen in the country has been lucrative. “He is like one of those guys who went to Vietnam,” said Antonio Tavel, president of Xerox in Honduras. “He had an ugly job to do once upon a time, and now he’s a regular family guy.”

Mr. Joya is the son of a businessman who helped start several successful companies in Honduras but gambled away more money than he made. Mr. Joya, one of four children, said he enrolled in the military academy at 14, mostly as a way to gain early independence. He was expelled from the academy, he said, when a teacher caught him cheating on an exam. But instead of giving up his dream to be a soldier, he enlisted as a private and within two years had risen to become the youngest sergeant in the army.

Mr. Joya joined the military police, and in 1981 — as the Reagan administration spent tens of millions of dollars to turn this impoverished country into the principal staging area for a covert war against the region’s left-wing guerrilla groups — Mr. Joya said that he and 12 other Honduran soldiers received six weeks of training in the United States. He acknowledged that he went on to become a member of Battalion 316. But that’s where his version of events diverges from those of his accusers. He has been charged with 27 crimes, including illegal detention, torture and murder. The most noteworthy case involved the illegal detention and torture of the six university students in April 1982. The students said they were held in a series of secret jails for eight days. During that time, the students testified, they were kept blindfolded and naked, denied food and water, and subjected to beatings and psychological torture.

Among those detained was Milton Jiménez, who later became a lawyer and a member of Mr. Zelaya’s cabinet. In 1995, Mr. Jiménez told The Baltimore Sun that officers from the battalion stood him before a firing squad and threatened to shoot him. “They said they were finishing my grave,” he said at the time. “I was convinced I was going to die.”

Edmundo Orellana, the former Honduran attorney general who was the first to try to prosecute human rights crimes, said it was “absurd” that Mr. Joya remained free. “Billy Joya is proof that civilian rule has been a cruel hoax on the Honduran people,” Mr. Orellana said. “He shows that ignorance and complicity still reign inside our courts, especially when it comes to the armed forces.”
Absurd, Mr. Joya countered, are the charges against him. After his television appearance, he said he received so many threats that he took his wife and youngest daughter to the United States. Now he returns to Honduras only intermittently to meet with clients.

Poring over dozens of newspaper clippings and court dockets during an interview, he argued that Battalion 316 was not established until two years after Mr. Jiménez’s detention, and that it was a technical unit specializing in arms interdiction, not counterinsurgency. He also argued that the former students’ testimony against him is rife with contradictions. He said Mr. Jiménez, for example, later recanted his charge that Mr. Joya was involved in his interrogations.

“It was never my responsibility to detain people, to torture people or to disappear people,” Mr. Joya said. “But if those had been my orders, I am sure I would have obeyed them, because I was trained to obey orders. The policy at that time was, ‘The only good Communist is a dead Communist,’ ” he continued. “I supported the policy.”