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.

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