Monday, September 7, 2009

Thanks to those who contacted me by e-mail on the occasion of my late son’s birthday last Friday, even some people who never knew him (that was your loss). I do appreciate that he is not forgotten.

My book has now been read on tape for the Library for the Blind. I had thought of reading it myself, but was intimidated by the equipment and really don't have much extra time. Besides, Mr. Bradford, the head reader, was eager to do it himself and he discouraged me. He was very careful, but I'm a bit annoyed that, on his own initiative, he changed the abbreviated form of the capital city from TEH-goose (emphasis on the first syllable) to teh-GOOSE (emphasis on the second), which is what he heard it called years ago when he was there. I've heard both short forms, but during my time, the former was much more common and, in Spanish, it was the only way it was said and the only way that I said it myself. The second-syllable version was only used sometimes by gringos speaking English. Unless the listener is a native Spanish speaker, I don't think it matters that much. Of course, the full name has a completely different emphasis, Teguci-GAL-pa. However, in common parlance, the full name is not used often.

I told him I don't think it would be worth going back to change all the references to the short pronunciation with which I am more familiar. I didn't anticipate that the short form is sometimes different in English and might have been different when he was there (the man is 95 years old). However, I would not want to be saying that myself when I first introduce that term or to endorse it's pronunciation as teh-GOOSE, as I would totally lose my Spanish cred in that case. So I asked him to please erase any such reference. Let the reader think it's just his gringo pronunciation, which it is.

Now, from the north coast of Honduras, not unexpectedly, comes word of rising prices and more unrest in the cities, with crowd control and tear gas used to disperse demonstrators. Unless things calm down, I don’t know that I will be going back for the IHS medical brigade next Feb. although the need will be greater than ever. It’s necessary to arrive by air to a major city, either Teguc or San Pedro, where demonstrations are concentrated.

Now it's time, or will be very soon, much as they hate to admit it, for the interim government to let Zelaya come back and endure until January—with safeguards, of course, that he and Chavez won't try any dirty tricks. The US threat not to recognize the Honduran elections is, to me, more serious than the aid cut off. Unfortunately, we have the neighboring specter of Chavez relentlessly cracking down on all opposition to him--step-by-step, taking over press, independent labor unions, oil production, so there has to be some way to assure that Zelaya doesn't try something similar, if and when he returns. I don't know how such safeguards can be put into place, given that many Latin American countries are sympathetic to Chavez and beholden to him for cheap oil, though perhaps some are starting to see through him. It's a dilemma. Trust, or the lack thereof, between the parties is the main problem.

If the Honduran elections are carried out without yielding to the accords, then there won't be any international observers there with any credibility, certainly none from the US except maybe from the Heritage Foundation or another well-known right-wing group, and the aid cutoff will continue and probably get worse, since not all US humanitarian aid has been cut off yet. And no one will recognize Honduran officials diplomatically. It's really a no-win situation. The US can help by putting in place some guarantees in case Zelaya/Chavez try to pull something, but Micheletti is going to have to let Zelaya return, protect him, and not arrest him, period. The time has come. Whether waiting until the end of September or October, as my Latin American commentator has suggested below, would help, then maybe that's OK as long as Zelaya does go back before the elections and serves out his term peacefully until January. The problem is that since Micheletti and company have taken such a strong stand, they don't want to lose face by backing down and they’ve come to believe their own rhetoric.

Just got word that peace advocacy groups around the world are engaging in a “Fast for Honduras.” So support of Zelaya has gone beyond top diplomatic circles worldwide.

A commentator on this blog points out the difficulty of putting any guarantees in place to make sure that Zelaya serves out his term peacefully. She says: I agree that Micheletti would be much more likely to come around if the U.S. could, as you suggest, "put in place some guarantees in case Zelaya/Chavez try to pull something." But I don't see what, realistically, Obama could guarantee. To send in the Marines if Chavez sends in his thugs? To put sugar in the gas tanks of the sound trucks Zelaya was about to blanket Teguc and other populated areas with? To jawbone these guys if they "try to pull something"? We've already kept hands off in every way except those that are easy and convenient: the visas, the aid cutoffs. It would really be putting our thumb on the scales to wait until something unseemly has happened, then call up Zelaya and say, "You see, now, Mr. President, this is exactly what your opponents said you'd do. We vouched that you'd never dream of it, and now that you've gone and done it, we're going to have to ask you to stop." It also wouldn't work. Running out the clock is a game two can play.

There's so much we don't know. I surely hope that Micheletti is gearing up to say, "Oh what the hell. We've made our point. C'mon back, Mel; just try to stay out of the way."

Here’s an excerpt from an editorial in today’s Washington Post entitled “Obama’s Summit Flop”: One of the first to draw some hardheaded conclusions has been -- no surprise -- Hillary Clinton. In April the new secretary of state suggested at a congressional hearing that bad U.S. relations with Chávez were the result of the Bush administration's refusal to engage with the caudillo. "Let's see if we can begin to turn that relationship," she proposed.
It took less than three months for Clinton to be disabused of the idea -- a stretch during which Chávez took advantage of the administration's extended hand to launch another crackdown on his own domestic opposition while attempting to foment a left-wing coup in Honduras. Now Clinton is devoting herself to boxing Chávez out of the continuing Honduras crisis; far from consulting the Venezuelan strongman, she went out of her way to meet with journalists from a television station he is trying to close.

The last word (actually quite a few words) goes to our Latin American correspondent (not Honduran, by the way), copied verbatim, with only a few editorial and spelling corrections (and I doubt the OAS would intervene militarily if Zelaya stepped out of line):

If Zelaya is allowed to return only one month before elections, the army will be under the command of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and he won’t be allowed to purge its leadership and to use it to force others to comply with his desires. Besides, he will be subject to international supervision and will therefore be forced to be on his very best behavior to avoid a possible OAS military intervention if he tries to push his luck.

For this reason, if Micheletti gives way and adopts the Arias mediating proposal and, according to their present provisions, the Honduran elections are pushed forward one month, we would logically expect Zelaya not to be allowed back in power until September 29, one month before the new date for elections on October 29. However, if the Arias mediating proposals are adopted without pushing elections forward one month, then, for the same reasons, I don’t expect Zelaya to be allowed back by Micheletti before October 29.

Of course, both of these alternatives are based on the Micheletti government agreeing to the Arias proposal and US wishes. As I told you before, I consider this alternative to be less probable than that he will persevere in his present course. Micheletti is a cattleman and I think he has somewhat taurine characteristics. This means that once he makes up his mind to charge, one should expect him to keep moving forward at top speed until he hits a wall. In Latin America, we would say, "Hasta que se destarre!"

Henceforth, I consider that there exists a greater probability that the de facto government will shoot for the moon or, like we say, "Va a jugarse todo por el todo!" or in poker jargon that he will risk everything on the last card and gamble his last remaining funds. The de facto government is even willing to face US sanctions because the oligarchy is so isolated, feels desperate, and is not willing to trust other Latin American governments, the OAS, or the US government. This is the consequence of having demonized Zelaya and Chavez and believing that there is an international conspiracy to throw Honduras to the big bad wolves, Chavez, Ortega, Castro, and Zelaya.

From their perspective, they do not trust international guarantees or supervision and are simply trying to keep the wolves away from the fold or the foxes from the henhouse altogether or at least for a little while longer. I don’t think that they are considering that it is preferable to admit as soon as possible the wolf in the premises under the hunter's supervision or the fox into the henhouse under the owner's eye than to have to admit him later without any third-party supervision or guarantees. This odd position becomes sensible when one considers that they do not trust the impartiality of the third parties in question and perceive them as hidden allies of the Latin American left and in basic agreement with an international conspiracy to throw them to the leftist wolves. This is why I believe that they will persevere in cutting their own necks by following their present course!

Now all we have to do is to wait and see how the game will play out, while trying to control our fear that the very worst could happen and that some random unanticipated violent event could trigger a chain reaction that could blow up the powder keg and begin a civil war. In my opinion, this is not an idle worry but a very real possibility that increases as time goes by without a solution to the crisis!

Remember that nearly all participants in the Honduran presidential campaign process that the de facto government just began are uneducated and living at extreme poverty levels. Think for a second about all that is at stake for the participants which is nothing less than who will eat regularly during the next presidential administration. Consider the partisan confrontational danger always present in a Latin American presidential political campaign that has now been exacerbated in Honduras by the recent political discord. Take into account the desire of the "sargentos politicos" to court the favor of their political superiors and acquire political prestige by stimulating their followers to have frequent confrontations with the backers of their political rivals. Think also about the possible behavior under confrontational stress of the political mobs that surround each opposing "sargento político". As you know, these mobs are usually under the influence of the cheap alcohol and marijuana pitos that the sargentos politicos hand out and are very difficult to control even under the most favorable of circumstances.

Finally reflect on the fact that if there is any violence, there will be widespread public protests and that the army and the police will be called upon to repress popular protests. Also, that we cannot anticipate how strongly these forces will react or overreact. Anything could happen. The army and the police could very well violently put down popular protests or even do the opposite and refuse to repress the population.

Moreover if violent repression occurs, a segment of the military and the police could very well revolt and come into conflict with another portion of the armed forces in the population's defense or backing Zelaya. Also, that if the army and the police will refuse to repress the population that the situation could get out-of-hand and become anarchic with widespread lynchings of de facto governmental figures. Either way there could be hell to pay! There is a very strong probability of the beginning of a Honduran civil war.

Of course, once that happens, an OAS-solicited foreign military intervention for peacekeeping or law enforcement purposes will be necessary if the conflict becomes bloody or is not over soon.

Moreover, even if the de facto government has its way and manages to carry out an election and to hand over power to a new Honduran administration, they will only open themselves to accusations about the honesty of such a process and manage to make a political martyr out of Zelaya in the eyes of the majority of the Honduran population. All this will of course only set the stage for Zelaya or Zelaya's followers’ future return to power in Honduras.

I believe that the poor schmucks in the Micheletti administration by their myopic counterproductive actions are only digging their own political graves and ensuring the future domination in Honduras of the demagogic left and the eventual loss of power of the present Honduran oligarchy. In my eyes, they are like the victims of an accursed self-fulfilling prophecy playing out in slow motion before our very eyes! Perhaps, we need a modern day Aescilys to capture it in a drama and to preserve it for future generations to try to stop the politicians in other countries from making the same mistakes!

But even this is utopian. "Nadie aprende por cabeza ajena! El hombre es el único animal que tropieza varias veces con la misma piedra!" [No one learns via another’s mind. Man is the only animal that keeps tripping over the same stone.]

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