Sunday, August 2, 2009

Micheletti Denies Considering Zelaya Return

I’m delighted that we’ve gotten a conversation going here on this blog, either posted on the blog itself or sent me by e-mail. A reader identifying herself as La Gringa, with her own blog, says: 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. She cites Congressman Connie Mack (R-Fla.) as saying that the NY Times was wrong to imply that Micheletti was thinking about possible a deal, that he spoke with Micheletti who said he never agreed to even consider Zelaya’s return to power.

Another reader speculates that Chavez may be so invested in Honduras that he will be reluctant to let go—yes, he certainly will be very reluctant to let go of another country that he had already added to his empire. (And the latest evidence is that he is definitely financing the FARC in Colombia, though he continues to deny it.) Probably he is funding Zelaya in Nicaragua and also feeding the Honduran pilgrims there. I doubt that he has given up and he will continue to make mischief in Honduras, whatever agreement may be reached. Venezuelan advisers are said to be all over Honduras. The ambassador has been asked to leave, but has refused to go. As you will recall, my school teacher friend on the Honduran north coast objected to seeing Zelaya being ferried around in a vehicle with Venezuelan license plates and flying a Venezuelan flag. And when Zelaya went to Washington, presumably someone else paid that bill. Ah, oil money, getting control of it has made Chavez a formidable political player. A reader also worries about a future Honduran brain-drain, similar to what happened in Venezuela: What a shame it will be for Honduras if the skilled, educated, English-speaking people who don't want to see Honduras sucked into the ALBA network decide to decamp..

From my Latin American observer, mentioned earlier, comes this, explaining Micheletti’s apparent recent waffling (assuming that it actually occurred): One segment of the Honduran oligarchy wants to run the clock out and is dragging out negotiations with that in mind. Another is fearful of antagonizing the US government and wants to fold. There is evidently some internal disagreement inside the army and Zelaya expects some sort of an army mutiny if repression against the population has to be reinforced. At the same time, the effect of economic aid and Venezuelan oil cuts is beginning to be felt and strikes and road cut-offs are strangling the economy and affecting the population's living standards. There are queues in the gas stations for fuel. Public protests are continuing. Repression is being stepped up.

No major media news yet today on Honduras, so I’ll venture my own comments. I think it’s pretty obvious that the world and especially the US cannot return to the status quo ante of unlimited salaries and bonuses for CEOs; even if the smartest guy in the world works non-stop 24 hours a day, his time is not worth thousands of dollars per hour nor can he spend everything he earns. Additionally, there cannot be unlimited credit and ever-rising consumption. The planet cannot sustain a standard of living such as we have become accustomed to in the US, especially for the whole world. Furthermore, Adam Smith’s invisible hand is not sufficient to create a sustainable and rational market. And increasing the bottom line is not the only desirable social goal. While Communist countries went overboard on government control and crashed because of it, so now unfettered capitalism has reached and exceeded its logical limit. We will not return to the heady days of spend, spend, spend. Instead, I predict, we are likely to end up with a more modest average standard of living, even here in the US. That will be the definition of economic recovery, not a return to the old system. And most of us will come to accept that a combination of free enterprise and sufficient government control and regulation is the most workable system over the long term. Citizens will have to start thinking not only of maximum accumulation for themselves, but also of the common good.

Likewise, in Honduras, there cannot be a return to the status quo ante. If members of the interim government are holding out for that, it’s not going to happen. The wealthy and influential are going to have to give up some resources and power. Whether or not Zelaya remains outside or is allowed to return to Honduras with only limited power, the interests of those who support him still must be addressed. That is, any agreement between both sides in the Honduras conflict, to be successful, must not only deal with the immediate problem of Zelaya’s return, but also reflect a new way of doing business not based on “winner take all,” the previous pattern. This is true even if Zelaya does not come back. For one thing, the minimum wage has already been doubled and cannot be scaled back, so some way must be found to sustain it, especially if there is no more subsidized oil. So, I would hope to see the negotiations between the two sides becoming more substantive, broader, and longer-term than just settling the immediate problem of Zelaya’s return. This crisis can and should become a lesson in seeking compromise solutions to be applied to Honduras’ ongoing economic problems, including the vast inequalities of wealth and resources and the precarious existence of the majority of its citizens. Is that just wishful thinking? I hope not.

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