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.

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