Saturday, August 1, 2009

Honduras Alone Against the World?

A reader yesterday posted a comment: Hi Barbara;
Enjoy your posts. Please keep them coming.
Thanks, I appreciate feedback. Some of the most cogent observations posted here have come from readers. For the reader who just posted yesterday on the blog, I did not answer you directly on my blog because, being cyber-challenged, when I tried to do so, I got totally lost in the blogosphere, ending up seeing animated cyber-ads in Spanish and trying to decipher quirky test words, so please consider yourself duly thanked here!

According to rumor inside Honduras and implied in some recent news articles, Micheletti had seemed more flexible on Zelaya’s return than the rest of the interim government, a government that he heads not because of ambition, but only by virtue of constitutional succession; he therefore was not able to agree to Zelaya’s return unilaterally. He called for help in bringing other government entities and players on board and putting outside guarantees in place so that if the wolf is let in the door, he won’t gobble up Red Riding Hood and her Granny. He had asked for negotiations to take place with the whole governmental team and to have neutral outsiders come into Honduras to assess the situation for themselves. Hugo Chavez was obviously not welcome to join that assessment contingent. Additionally, the Honduran congress is reportedly meeting on Monday to consider giving amnesty to both sides and, no doubt, the possibility of Zelaya’s return will be hotly debated.

However, AP reports today that Micheletti seems to be backtracking, saying that while Zelaya may return to the country, he categorically cannot return to office, but must face charges. This dampens some of the optimism his ambiguous signals generated earlier in the week. It’s very possible (only my guess) that his colleagues insisted he pull back any feelers he had put out about allowing consideration of Zelaya’s return to occupy the presidency once again. AP also reports that Nicaragua’s president Daniel Ortega is warning that Honduras might provoke a military incident at the border to distract from efforts to restore Zelaya. See also Reuters article below, indicating that Honduras is ready to go it alone against the world.

A Miami Herald editorial, partially copied below Reuters, faults the OAS for failing to end the Honduras crisis. At the same time, in an opinion piece in the Herald, Insulza tries to explain and defend the OAS action.

Honduras leader firm against world pressure
By Mica Rosenberg
Saturday, August 1, 2009 8:14 AM

TEGUCIGALPA - Honduras' de facto leader vowed on Friday that no country will push the small Central American nation around and pledged to resist international pressure to reinstate toppled President Manuel Zelaya. Roberto Micheletti, who was named president by Congress just hours after soldiers overthrew Zelaya on June 28, said Honduras had enough basic foodstuffs to endure economic sanctions if it were further isolated over the coup. "We don't accept anyone imposing anything on us. There is no country -- no matter how powerful -- that is going to tell us what to do," he told Reuters in an interview.

The United States, Honduras' No. 1 trading partner, withdrew military aid and canceled diplomatic visas to important figures in the interim government to pressure Micheletti to reinstate leftist Zelaya. Latin American countries and the European Union have also lined up against Micheletti, a former head of Congress.
Washington is backing a plan by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to end the Honduran standoff, the worst political crisis in Central America in nearly 20 years. The proposal includes bringing Zelaya back to office, but Micheletti again flatly rejected that idea. "We respect many of the points of the agreement but we do not accept some of them, like the return of Mr. Zelaya. We don't accept it in this country under any circumstance. If he wants to come back he can, but only if he faces trial."

Zelaya upset the Supreme Court and many in Congress by trying to hold a referendum to change the constitution. Critics accused him of pushing for presidential re-election to extend his mandate, following the lead of Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez. He had angered business and religious leaders by his close ties with Chavez. Micheletti had tried in the past to run for president but lost his party's internal elections. Wearing a Catholic rosary ring, he regularly invokes God and recently called for a national day of prayer.

Micheletti said his administration was open to dialogue but ready to endure international isolation if countries impose more economic sanctions on Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Americas and a producer of coffee, textiles and bananas. "We have a guaranteed food supply. Basic grains in the country will last until February of next year, possibly March, so we are not afraid of being hit by shortages," he said in a salon in the presidential palace heavily guarded by soldiers. "Private companies, supporting the country, have said they are going to freeze prices on the basic basket of goods ... for as long as is necessary," Micheletti said. Economists say the political crisis could cut economic growth by 2 percentage points this year in an already contracting Honduran economy, as nearly daily pro-Zelaya protests that block roads and military checkpoints disrupt the flow of cargo and scare away tourists.

But Micheletti insists the country is mostly operating normally and will be stabilized ahead of the presidential elections scheduled for November. "We can perfectly survive" the current situation, he said. Poor Hondurans will be hit hardest by any increased economic pressure, he said, and the United States will have to fear being flooded by illegal immigrants. "If the economic situation worsens for Hondurans, it will worsen for (the United States) because the people are going to start immigrating," Micheletti said.

Micheletti has asked for Enrique Iglesias, former head of the Inter-America Development Bank, to lead a diplomatic mission to Honduras. But instead of rekindling negotiations to allow for Zelaya's return, he said the government only wants a credible outsider to hear its side of the dispute.

The country's interim leaders, the military and businesses that supported the coup believe Venezuela's Chavez was a menace trying to spread his firebrand version of socialism across Latin America. They accuse him of pulling the strings behind Zelaya's government, using his regional influence and oil money. "I feel like we have a huge responsibility. We want to continue with the dialogue, we want to continue to seek peace and tranquility in our country, but we do not accept intervention by anybody, especially not from the Communists of the 21st century," Micheletti said.

End the Honduran crisis: Washington Has a Big Stake in Resolving Honduras crisis
Miami Herald July 31, 2009

Now that the interim leader of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, is showing signs of flexibility regarding the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, the Obama administration should move quickly to bring the Honduran crisis to an end.
The administration may have been well intentioned in allowing the Organization of American States to act as the mediator, but the OAS-led effort failed to end the stalemate in the Central American country. Allowing Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to take the lead in resolving the issue became a necessary face-saving gesture for all parties, but Mr. Arias would probably be the first to acknowledge that he needs pressure from Washington to clinch an agreement.

Getting their attention
This week, Washington finally responded by pulling the U.S. visas of four members of Mr. Micheletti's interim government, the sort of gesture that conveys seriousness of purpose and has apparently gotten the attention of Mr. Zelaya's opponents in Honduras.

The United States has a big stake in settling the Honduras crisis, and settling it quickly. The U.S. military presence at Palmerola is an important asset that must be protected by ensuring that Honduras remains both an ally and a stable democracy. The longer the crisis drags on, the weaker the appearance of U.S. diplomacy in its own region.

Mr. Zelaya, to be sure, is no friend of the United States, but this dispute is not about him. It is about sticking to constitutional procedures and keeping the military out of politics -- a bad habit of long standing that should not be indulged by those who claim to have Honduras' best interests in mind.
From the beginning, Mr. Zelaya has been his own worst enemy, provoking a political crisis that led to his removal from power at the point of a gun and afterward trying to enter the country via the Nicaraguan border in an effort to spark a confrontation.

A conditional return
Mr. Micheletti and his cohorts are right to insist that any deal for Mr. Zelaya's return should be conditioned on an enforceable understanding that he will not try to prolong his tenure. He should be in office just long enough to transfer power to the next constitutionally elected president and not one day longer.

1 comment:

La Gringa said...

Micheletti and his representatives have always been consistent in the message that any negotiations must be in accordance with the constitution and laws of Honduras.

It is the US and Venezuelan media that are distorting the actual messages. I wrote about it here:

Mack: NY Times report on Honduras is false