Thursday, September 3, 2009

Marking my Late Son’s Birthday, Update on Honduras

September 4 is my son Andrew’s birthday, an occasion sadly marked by his absence. Readers of my book will remember him. I do not plan on working or going anywhere on that day, as is my custom. I pray that none of my readers will ever have the experience of losing a child.

As for Honduras, Zelaya spoke at George Washington U. in our fair city on Wed., but unfortunately, I had to work, as I would have liked to hear him speak. In fact, I did get to hear him via a video shot by the Washington Post. He appeared in a suit and tie, without his cowboy hat. He denied he had planned to conduct a referendum, arguing that it was only a non-binding “poll” on whether the populace wanted to reform the constitution. The “coup” leaders, he declared, were a small group holding the people of Honduras hostage. He depicted Chavez as being unfairly targeted as a whipping boy, when he was really just helping Honduras. Zelaya said he would be meeting with Secretary Clinton the next day, where he would urge the US to take stronger measures against the de facto government. Zelaya also held a news conference at the OAS where he declared that the OAS will not recognize the November elections being held in that country. Micheletti had predicted that in November, with the elections, the crisis would end. Failure of the rest of the world to recognize the elections would deal a huge blow to the efforts of the de facto government and create ongoing complications for Honduras.

A vice chancellor of the interim government, Marta Lorena Alvarado, in an article appearing in El Nuevo Herald, said it’s fine for Sec. Clinton to meet with Zelaya, but that she should also listen to the side of the interim government. Alvarado asked the secretary to recognize the upcoming elections in Honduras.

El Pregonero,
a local Catholic Spanish-language newspaper, polled five DC passersby as to whether they thought Zelaya should return to power. Three said yes, two said no. They were not identified as Hondurans, but, I suspect, the breakdown within Honduras might be similar.

Amnesty International’s Central America country specialists have signed a letter headlined: An ousted President. A disenfranchised population. An overthrown democracy.
Urge Secretary Clinton to ensure resolution to the political crisis and prevent further human rights abuses in

Here below is my Latin American commentator again. I sure hope he’s wrong, but he may well be right. Just some modest yielding by the interim government, with safeguards, would satisfy most Zelaya supporters (except perhaps Chavez). The Hondurans who support Zelaya who have been in touch with me are not sophisticated folks--they just like the guy because they think he tried to help them (free light bulbs, higher wages) and because he was duly elected. They would be happy to see him make a speech, cheer him on, and welcome him home again. However, there is also a chance of violence if he comes back and that is worrisome. Things have not been exactly peaceful since he's been gone, but, by Honduran standards, they have not been so bad. Most people are going about their business as usual, especially outside the two major cities and even in the cities, the biggest problem has been roads blocked with burning tires. Of course, demonstrators have been injured, as per the Amnesty statement. So, we shall see.

Here's the Latin American commentator:
The more I think of the Honduran situation the more I believe two possible scenarios are likely.

Scenario number one, which is possible if the US government and the Honduran de facto government are in cahoots and everything is prearranged beforehand.

The Honduran de facto government agrees to implement the Arias mediation plan after September 29. This will allow the elections to be held on October 29 and the army to be under the commando of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Under this scenario the de facto government would comply with the OAS demand to return Zelaya to power and to not allow a military coup in the hemisphere. At the same time Zelaya could not purge the army command and substitute his military opponents with officers that will respond to him. Also, it will be too late for Zelaya to stand for reelection or to nominate a candidate of a new political party that will have his support.

This would ensure the ruling oligarchy to continue dominating Honduran politics for the next four years while allowing the OAS and the US government to fulfill their democratic commitments. This solution would ALSO allow the Obama administration to "Estar al mismo tiempo con Dios y con el Diablo" and to satisfy its hemispheric democratic commitment while not throwing Honduras to the leftist wolves and thus giving the right wing Republicans grounds to accuse him of threatening US security interests! This scenario could even provide the US government an opportunity to publicly assume a posture of hemispheric democratic commitment by apparently triggering the capitulation of the Honduran de facto government to the requirements of the Arias solution by briefly enforcing a closing off of economic aid to Honduras or a trade embargo that could be later be countermanded or annulled when Zelaya takes office.

Obviously, once annulled, the economic aid that was temporarily not provided could be offset by increasing similar aid before the close of the fiscal year. This first scenario would obviously be the one that would best ensure a peaceful democratic election and hand off of power to a pro-oligarchical regime.

The second scenario is that an unintelligent, stubborn, and reactionary Honduran de facto administration would find some silly suspicious reason to object to the previous intelligent solution of its predicament and would persevere in not allowing Zelaya to return to power even if it received assurances beforehand that Zelaya would not be able to move against its interests and that the army leadership that supported the oligarchy was still in function.

In that case the US would be forced to ratchet up its sanctions to keep its democratic face and the specific outcome would be uncertain but very likely much more violent.

The first possible outcome would be that a successful peaceful and transparent election would take place and that the de facto administration would manage to hand off power peacefully to a new administration that would continue to run the country in the oligarchy's interests. However, the possibility of this non-violent solution would be much lower than in the case of the first scenario.

The second possible outcome would be to an unsuccessful election and handover of power with public protests, a possible military revolt and bloodshed and civil strife that could end in the interruption of the Honduran democratic process and one of the following:
1- A possible leftist takeover 2- A possible right wing military dictatorship 3- A prolonged civil war.

None of these possible outcomes would guarantee a non-violent solution and the continuation of the Honduran democratic process.

Obviously the first scenario would be the most favorable solution for all Honduran, but there is no guarantee that an oligarchy so stupid as to nominate as the Honduran foreign minister an individual whose first act was to call Obama "Un negrito que no sabe donde queda Tegucigalpa"[a blacky who doesn’t even know the location of Tegucigalp] cannot be trusted to make intelligent decisions in its own best interests.

So instead of taking the intelligent way out that the Obama administration is offering it, it is almost a mathematical certainty that it will choose the worst possible option regarding its own long-range interests. Its probable decision would probably be to opt for the myopic solution and not accept, even under the most favorable circumstances for its own interests, that Zelaya’s return to power is a price for avoiding civil strife and ensuring its own non-violent continuation in power.

So we can be probably be 70 or 80% sure that the Honduran de facto government will probably buy the rope with which it will eventually hang the rightwing oligarchy that supports it by promoting the demagogical class warfare that will allow its left wing opponents to take over sometime in the future.

In a subsequent message, this same guy predicts that even if the US ratchets up sanctions, the interim government will hold out. Meanwhile, Zelaya, apparently not satisfied with what Hillary told him (further cutting aid-see below), is planning his own comeback, which could be bloody. Worst-case scenario would be if Zelaya were killed in the attempt, second-worse would be his arrest and trial.

Ousted President 'Organizing' for His Return to Honduras

By Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post, September 3, 2009

Two months after he was overthrown in a coup, Honduras's ousted president said Wednesday that he sees little progress in U.S.-backed negotiations aimed at restoring him to power and has started formulating plans to go back to the country and reclaim its highest office.

INTERNATIONAL / AMERICAS | September 03, 2009

Ousted Honduran Leader Seeks Tougher U.S. Stance Against Coup

By GINGER THOMPSON, New York Times, September 3, 2009

Manuel Zelaya asked the Obama administration to cut off monetary assistance to the de facto government and freeze the visas and assets of those involved in plotting his overthrow.

US cuts aid to Honduras in support of ex-leader
Associated Press

Thursday, September 3, 2009 2:16 PM

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration on Thursday cut all non-humanitarian aid to Honduras over the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya, making permanent a temporary suspension of U.S. aid imposed after he was deposed in June. The State Department made the announcement as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was meeting with Zelaya. Spokesman Ian Kelly did not say how much assistance would be cut but officials have said previously that more than $200 million is at stake. Kelly said it affected "a broad range of assistance to the government of Honduras."
"The Secretary of State has made the decision, consistent with U.S. legislation, recognizing the need for strong measures in light of the continued resistance to the adoption of the San Jose Accord by the de facto regime and continuing failure to restore democratic, constitutional rule to Honduras," Kelly said in a statement.
The San Jose accord, brokered by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, aims to return Zelaya to power with limited authority until elections now set for November. But Zelaya's replacement, Roberto Micheletti, has refused to accept it, prompting Clinton's decision to cut aid.

In making the aid cut decision, however, Clinton did not determine that Zelaya's ouster met the U.S. legal definition of a military coup d'etat. Such a finding would have forced the administration to cut off assistance and had been urged by some leading lawmakers, including Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "This one looks, walks and quacks like a duck," Berman wrote in Thursday's editions of the Los Angeles Times. "It's time to stop hedging and call this bird what it is. And if, for whatever reason, the State Department lawyers do not conclude that this was a coup, Congress should examine other ways by which it can directly affect the flow of aid."

Zelaya was deposed and exiled on June 28 amid suspicions among his opponents that he wanted to overturn the constitutional provision limiting Honduran presidents to a single term. He has denied that was his goal.

Kelly said that while stopping short of the coup determination, Clinton's decision "recognizes the complicated nature of the actions" that led to Zelaya's ouster. He said those "involve complex factual and legal questions and the participation of both the legislative and judicial branches of government as well as the military." He said "restoration of the terminated assistance will be predicated upon a return to democratic, constitutional governance in Honduras." He added that the United States would not recognize the results of the election under current conditions and stressed it was imperative that the vote meet international standards. "That election must be undertaken in a free, fair and transparent manner," he said. "It must also be free of taint and open to all Hondurans to exercise their democratic franchise. At this moment, we would not be able to support the outcome of the scheduled elections."

"A positive conclusion of the Arias process would provide a sound basis for legitimate elections to proceed," Kelly said. "We strongly urge all parties to the San Jose talks to move expeditiously to agreement."

In addition to the aid cut, he said the State Department would revoke the U.S. visas of an unspecified number of Honduran officials who are backing Micheletti. The department had previously revoked the visas of four Honduran officials allied with Micheletti. It has also previously announced the suspension of nearly $20 million in military and development assistance to Honduras and stopped issuing most visas at the U.S. embassy in Honduras.

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