Saturday, October 31, 2009

US Realpolitik in Honduras?

Happy Halloween. It’s warmish here, looking rather cloudy with a threat of rain, but I’m still ready with my candy. I always run out, rain or shine. It would be more nutritious to give out something other than candy, but that’s not practical after the razor blades in apples and such and, besides, kids reject anything but candy.

Just realized that we change to standard time tomorrow. I’m a morning person, so really don’t appreciate the touted extra hour of sleep in the morning. I’d rather have it at night.

Thanks to those who have registered as regular blog followers. I don’t know most of you personally, but we do meet in cyberspace. You haven’t left any comments on the blog lately. Most comments I’ve repeated here have been sent to my Yahoo address, also shown on the blog. Either way is fine for making comments.

About Honduras, a regular correspondent notes: American pressure did the trick but it was only applied one month before the elections. Was this a coincidence? I think not!

Another correspondent says that she read in the Wall St. Journal that US observers will be present for the Honduran elections, despite what I had been told by someone at NDI.

The letter (far) below signed by several Congresspersons coincides with the Administration’s successful efforts to broker an agreement, which seems to provide an immediate answer to their request. I see that Maxine Waters of LA is one of the letter's signers. Years ago, attending a briefing held before one of her trips to Cuba that was to include a meeting with Fidel Castro, I asked her to please intervene on behalf of some Afro-Cuban political prisoners there, but she said she didn't want to hear anything about political prisoners or human rights. Then why were members of Amnesty International invited to talk with her before her trip? She now seems quite concerned about human rights in Honduras, but apparently that does not extend to Cuba.

A win in Honduras
How the Obama administration outmaneuvered Hugo Chávez

Saturday, October 31, 2009, Editorial Washington Post

THE STAKES in Honduras's political crisis have always been bigger than the country's tiny size would suggest -- and so it follows that the breakthrough engineered this week by the Obama administration is more than a minor diplomatic triumph. At its root, the fight in Honduras has been over whether Latin American nations will remain committed to upholding liberal democracy and the rule of law, not only at home but for their neighbors. The alliance led by Hugo Chávez is promoting a rival model of populist authoritarianism -- one that Honduras's deposed president, Manuel Zelaya, was attempting to adopt. When the Honduran army arrested Mr. Zelaya in June and illegally deported him, it, too, violated democratic norms, thus providing Mr. Chávez and his client with a convenient means to rally support.

Not just Venezuela's satellites but every other member of the Organization of American States joined in censuring Honduras. The subsequent intransigence of the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti -- and the unthinking support it received from some Republicans in Congress -- only added fuel to Mr. Chávez's fire.
The beauty of the U.S.-brokered deal is that it is founded on democratic process -- the very thing the Chavistas want to destroy. The Honduran Congress will vote on whether to restore Mr. Zelaya to office for the three months remaining in his term. Mr. Zelaya says he has the votes to return as president, but if he does, he will head a "government of reconciliation," and the armed forces will report to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, a presidential election previously scheduled for Nov. 29 will go forward with international support and regional recognition for the winner. Neither of the two leading presidential candidates supports Mr. Zelaya or his agenda, which means that Honduras's democracy should be preserved, and Mr. Chávez's attempted coup rebuffed.

Continued U.S. involvement will be needed to ensure that the deal is implemented. If it succeeds, the Obama administration will have the standing -- and the obligation -- to insist that the OAS start paying attention to other breaches of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. A good place to start would be neighboring Nicaragua, where would-be strongman Daniel Ortega is entrenching himself in power through fraudulent elections, corrupt manipulation of the courts and orchestrated violence.
In Washington, meanwhile, Republicans such as Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), who helped to prolong the Honduran crisis, should have no more excuse to hold up the confirmation of the administration's appointments for Latin American posts. As it happens, the leader of the U.S. delegation in Honduras this week, outgoing Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, is one of the State Department professionals abused by Mr. DeMint. Having recorded the Obama administration's biggest diplomatic success so far, Mr. Shannon ought to be allowed to take up his new post as ambassador to Brazil.

October 31, 2009
Deal Set to Restore Ousted Honduran President

Less than two days after senior American officials arrived in Honduras, the leader of the nation’s de facto government signed an agreement that would allow the return of the country’s ousted president, paving the way for an end to Latin America’s deepest political crisis in years. The deal, which was reached late Thursday and still faces the hurdle of being approved by the Honduran Congress, followed months of intransigence by leaders of the de facto government.

After President Manuel Zelaya’s expulsion from the country on June 28, the new government adamantly refused to accept his restoration to office, despite international condemnation, isolation from its neighbors and multiple rounds of failed negotiations. Roberto Micheletti, the leader of Honduras’s de facto government, relented only after senior Obama administration officials landed in the Honduran capital to take charge of the talks, pressing the point that the United States would not recognize the coming presidential election unless he accepted the deal.

Though senior administration officials played down their role, Latin America experts said that the agreement represented a breakthrough for President Obama, whose relations in the hemisphere were tested by the crisis. For months, the administration resisted driving the negotiations, positioning itself as just another member of a coalition that included both its allies and its adversaries in the region. Latin American leaders took the lead in the talks, but both sides kept trying to win over Washington, long the dominant power in the region.

During a half-hour telephone call last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took a leading role, making it clear to Mr. Micheletti that the United States was growing impatient with the stalemate and demanding that democracy be restored. Mr. Micheletti later joked with his aides that she stuck so close to her message it appeared she had a limited vocabulary. “I kept trying to explain our position to her,” he said, according to officials close to the talks, “but all she kept saying was, ‘Restitution, restitution, restitution.’ ”

Speaking on Friday in Pakistan, Mrs. Clinton called the deal a “historic agreement.”
“I cannot think of another example of a country in Latin America that, having suffered a rupture of its democratic and constitutional order, overcame such a crisis through negotiation and dialogue,” she said.

The essential elements of the agreement had largely been worked out months ago by other Latin American leaders. If Congress agrees, Mr. Zelaya will serve out the remaining three months of his term, and the presidential election scheduled for Nov. 29 will be recognized by all sides. Mr. Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti, both members of the Liberal Party, are not candidates.

Some significant obstacles remain, not least of which is the approval of the nation’s Congress, which voted overwhelmingly to strip Mr. Zelaya of power four months ago and now has to decide whether to reinstate him. “That is going to be the issue that is most provocative internally,” said Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon Jr., who led the American delegation, “and probably where we in the international community are going to have to pay the closest attention.”
The president of Congress, José Alfredo Saavedra, who is close to Mr. Micheletti, suggested that the legislature was in no hurry to decide on Mr. Zelaya’s fate. “At this time, nobody, absolutely nobody, can impose deadlines or terms on Congress,” he said.

The Zelaya camp also warned that there was much to do before the crisis was over. “Signing the agreement does not resolve the problem,” Carlos Eduardo Reina, an adviser to Mr. Zelaya, told local news organizations. “It opens space, it opens the door and determines what will be the path to return Honduras to legality.”
Kevin Casas-Zamora, an analyst at the Brookings Institution and a former vice president of Costa Rica, said he expected the Honduran Congress to approve Mr. Zelaya’s return because the two main presidential candidates right now had the most influence over legislators and wanted an agreement that would legitimize the election.

According to Mr. Micheletti, the accord would establish a unity government and a verification commission to ensure that its conditions were carried out. It would also create a truth commission to investigate the events of the past few months, but it would not provide amnesty for any crimes committed in connection with the coup. That could cause tensions with the military, which roused Mr. Zelaya from his bed and summarily forced him out of the country. It is unclear what it would mean for Mr. Zelaya, who has been threatened with arrest on charges ranging from corruption to treason.

As news of the agreement spread, residents poured from their homes and workplaces across Tegucigalpa, the capital, to celebrate. Jubilation broke out in streets that had been torn with protests for months.

Latin American governments had pressed the Obama administration to take a forceful approach to ending the impasse. Immediately after Mr. Zelaya was ousted, Mr. Obama joined the rest of the region in calling for Mr. Zelaya’s reinstatement. Later, the administration suspended about $30 million in aid and visas for people who had been identified as central supporters of the de facto government.
But hundreds of millions of dollars in American humanitarian assistance continued to flow, and Latin American countries, concerned about the precedent the coup had set in a region where democracy remained fragile, criticized the United States for sending mixed signals to Honduras.

There were no mixed signals this week, said officials close to the talks. “They showed the isolation the country would face, that doors would be closing to Honduras for some time to come,” said Roberto Flores Bermúdez, a former Honduran ambassador to Washington who served as a representative of the de facto government.

Congress Members Urge Obama to "Break the Silence" on Honduran Rights Violations
Axis of Logic
29 October 2009

Dear President Obama, October 27, 2009

We are writing to you regarding an urgent situation where lives are at stake and action on your part may prevent further tragedy.

Since the return to Honduras of President Manuel Zelaya, the de facto regime has taken further repressive measures, in addition to the previous violations of basic rights and civil liberties which have been recognized and denounced by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and all of the key Honduran human rights NGOs, among others.

According to reports from the media and rights organizations, the coup regime violently dispersed a gathering of Hondurans in front of the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa with tear gas, clubs and rubber bullets, resulting in numerous casualties, including several reported fatalities.

While the siege of the Embassy is a serious violation of the Vienna Convention, more disturbing is the broad assault against the Honduran people unleashed by the coup regime.

On September 22 the Americas director at Human Rights Watch, Jose Miguel Vivanco, stated that "given the reports we have received, and the poor track record of the security forces since the coup, we fear that conditions could deteriorate drastically in the coming days." That same day, the Americas Director for the London-based rights organization Amnesty International, Susan Lee, has stated that "the attacks against human rights defenders, suspension of news outlets, beating of demonstrators by the police and ever-increasing reports of mass arrests indicate that human rights and the rule of law in Honduras are at grave risk."

The international community has also spoken out regarding the worsening human rights situation in Honduras. On September 22nd, Mexico released a statement in the name of the 23-member Rio Group demanding that the de facto government stop carrying out "acts of repression and violation of human rights of all Hondurans." The following day, the President of the European Union seconded the Rio Group statement.

Mr. President, we were glad to hear State Department spokesman Ian Kelly on September 22 reaffirm the position of the Administration that Manuel Zelaya is the "democratically elected and constitutional leader of Honduras." But unfortunately, the mixed messages that have characterized the Administration's response persist.

The head of the US delegation to the Organization of American States Lewis Anselem represented our nation in that body by saying "Zelaya's return to Honduras is irresponsible and foolish and it doesn't serve the interest of the people nor those who seek the restoration of democratic order in Honduras [...] Everything will be better if all parties refrain from provoking and inciting violence." Not content to place equal blame on both the victims of the violence and the perpetrators, he then chose to personally insult Mr. Zelaya, saying "The president should stop acting as though he were starring in an old Woody Allen movie." State Department spokespersons have declined numerous opportunities to distance your administration from Anselem's words.

We note that, unlike the coup leaders, President Zelaya has indicated his openness to dialogue and has accepted the San Jose agreements that emerged from the US-backed mediation process led by President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica.

The suspension of rights announced by the junta on September 27 in Executive Decree PCM-M-016-2009 was used to shut down independent media outlets like Radio Globo and Canal 36, which have only recently been able to resume broadcasting.

The decree was denounced by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as "a violation of international law," containing "provisions [that] arbitrarily restrict fundamental human rights."

ED PCM-M-016-2009 remained legally in effect and was enforced by the junta until Monday, October 19, when the rescission was finally published, only to be replaced by a decree from the junta's Security Minister in which all planned public gatherings, rallies or marches, must be made known to the national police 24 hours in advance, including names of event organizers, start and end times, and any march routes.

Another, similar decree allowing authorities to suspend any media considered to be "fomenting social anarchy", had already been issued on October 7. According to the organization Reporters Without Borders, the October 7 decree is "targeted at those that oppose the coup" and "constitutes a real threat to pluralism, an incentive to self-censorship and an additional mechanism for polarizing the media and public opinion."

Free and fair elections cannot take place under these conditions.

Though we commend the administration for having strongly stated their support for the restoration of democracy in Honduras, we are concerned that neither you nor the Secretary of State has denounced these serious human rights abuses in a country where US influence could be decisive.

It is now more urgent than ever to break this silence. It is critical that your Administration immediately, clearly and unequivocally reject and denounce the repression by this illegitimate regime. We can say sincerely and without hyperbole that this action on your part will save lives.

Furthermore, the vast majority of our neighbors in the region, including Brazil and Mexico, have clearly indicated that they will not recognize the results of elections held under the coup regime.

On September 29, Costa Rican President and US-appointed mediator Oscar Arias noted the regime's continued rejection of the San Jose accords, and warned that Honduran elections cannot be recognized by the international community without a restoration of constitutional order. Arias said, "the cost of failure of leaving a coup d'etat unpunished is setting up a bad precedent for the region [...] You could have remembrances of a bad Latin American past, insisting on elections under these circumstances and overlooking items in the San Jose Accord."

It is time for the administration to join this growing hemispheric and international consensus and unambiguously state that elections organized by an undemocratic government that has denied critics of the regime the right to free speech, assembly, and movement, cannot and will not be considered free and fair by our government.

We feel it is imperative that the administration step up its efforts to bring about a prompt restoration of democracy in Honduras, together with other regional leaders.

We eagerly await your reply.


Raúl M. Grijalva, José E. Serrano,
Fortney "Pete" Stark, Danny K. Davis,
Janice D. Schakowsky, Maxine Waters,
Barbara Lee, John Conyers,
Luis V. Gutierrez, Jesse L. Jackson,
Chaka Fattah, James P. Moran,
Michael M. Honda, Sam Farr,
James L. Oberstar, Eddie Bernice Johnson

Friday, October 30, 2009


Before I explain why I’ve been absent from this blog for so long, let me just say that Micheletti and Zelaya have now signed an accord, at long last. It seems that until the US envoys got there (see articles below), there was no deal. Obama had wanted to stay out of it, but, in the end, could not. Or maybe Micheletti was waiting for some constitutionally important deadline? But until Zelaya is actually sitting on throne again, I won't believe it, and they better make sure he is not assassinated.

As my readers may already know, Micheletti’s nephew was murdered a few days ago, as was army Col. Concepcion Jimenez. Although Honduran authorities deny finding evidence that these killings were politically motivated, that is not certain and may never be known. Honduras does have a high violent crime rate, so it’s always hard to separate the political from the purely criminal and investigative capacities are quite limited. So, Zelaya needs a 24-hour, trustworthy guard patrol.

Last weekend, I was in Richmond, Va. My older daughter Melanie was in DC for a meeting for a couple of days, then dropped me off in Richmond, where I attended a regional Amnesty International meeting and brought along 50 copies of my book to sell to benefit the organization. However, only 16 were sold and I gave a copy to Irene Kahn, outgoing secretary general of Amnesty International, who had come to the US from London for a tour of her own book linking poverty and human rights concerns. (She sold 20.) It was also part her farewell tour as she is stepping down as secretary general at the end of the year. She was very gracious about sharing the podium with me, where we both talked about our books and human rights concerns.

I’ve been very busy in my interpretation work as well. Back in the 1960s in California, I licensed day care centers and children’s institutions in an inland territory stretching from San Bernardino to the Oregon border. So, it was with surprise and interest that I served as interpreter for a group of women attending a day care licensing session for Montgomery County, MD. Some requirements were different and others were almost the same (i.e. fire regulations). In this interpretation business, we are sent only a name and address via e-mail. Our client may be a group (as in this case), an older person, a youth, a child, or any combination thereof and the meeting place might be a hospital, school, child welfare office, probation office, lawyer’s office, department of motor vehicles, employment office, juvenile court, mental health facility, or detention center, in short, the whole gamut, and we are never told in advance what type of place it might be, just the name of a client or contact person and a simple address. If we’ve never been there before, we don’t know what to expect.

On another recent assignment at a hospital, the patient showed dangerous heart palpitations during preparations for an MRI and I rode with her in an ambulance to another hospital and participated in the admissions process there. And I was involved just yesterday in a complicated child welfare case that lasted 5 hours and did not come to satisfactory resolution. I’d better not say more about that for confidentiality reasons.

Before recent developments in Honduras, I talked with someone at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), which, if memory serves me, was the group that sponsored me for observing the 1990 Haitian elections. NDI is not sending observers to Honduras, nor do they know of any international observers planning to go, but they are supporting a bi-partisan, non-aligned group of Honduran election observers called Hagamos Democracia (Let’s Make Democracy) and a religiously affiliated Honduran group that includes both Evangelicals and Caritas (Catholics). I don't know if either group would welcome foreigners or whether a few non-official foreigners observing here and there would add any weight to the legitimacy of the election outcome. Nov. 29, of course, is the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so plane reservations might be hard to obtain at this point. I had thought some of trying to go, but now am leaning toward save my pennies for the Feb. medical brigade, where I know my contribution will make a difference. In any case, if the accord just signed is implemented, then the election outcome will be accepted by the international community anyway, as well as by Hondurans, so having international observers is no longer so important.

It's interesting that Nationalist presidential candidate Porfirio Lobo is leading in the polls. Both Zelaya and Micheletti belong to the other major party, the Liberal Party. Lobo was narrowly defeated by Zelaya in the last election. Honduras's two major parties typically take turns in the presidency and perhaps that pattern still holds, despite (or because of) what has just transpired.


Another says: I suppose you've heard about Ortega's cute little constitution overturner. I'm sparing you the rhetoric of the Wall St. Journal's editorial on the subject, but one must admit, it makes the concerns Micheletti asserts in justifying his intransigence extremely credible.

Of course, Micheletti must be in mourning for his nephew, so it’s remarkable that he was in any mood to settle with Zelaya now, after four months of standing fast. Fortunately, he finally did.

Hondurans reach accord that may end political crisis
By Mary Beth Sheridan and Karen DeYoung
Friday, October 30, 2009, Washington Post

Four months after he was ousted by the military, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya reached an agreement with his opponents that could restore him to office and end a political crisis that has roiled the hemisphere, officials said Friday.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, traveling in Pakistan, hailed the accord as a big step forward for Latin America after months of political paralysis. She had sent a high-level diplomatic team to Honduras this week that played a critical role in brokering the accord, according to diplomats.
The secretary general of the Organization of American States, José Miguel Insulza, told reporters Friday that he was confident the accord would lead to Zelaya's return to the presidency within days and to the formation of a power-sharing government.

However, the agreement still must win the approval of the Honduran Congress, which stripped Zelaya of the presidency after his June 28 ouster and named Roberto Micheletti as his successor. One Republican congressional aide briefed on the agreement said it was too soon to know whether Zelaya would take office again as president. "The breakthrough is both sides committed to accept whatever is decided by the legislative branch," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Zelaya, however, told Radio Globo in Honduras that the accord "signifies my return to power in the coming days, and peace for Honduras," The Associated Press reported.
Honduran soldiers detained Zelaya on June 28 and flew him to exile in Costa Rica. The military was acting on a secret order issued by the Honduran Supreme Court for Zelaya's arrest on charges that included abuse of power.

Zelaya had alienated powerful politicians, businessmen and the church by seeking to hold a poll on changing the constitution. Many Hondurans saw the move as a bid to end a constitutional term limit and extend his presidency beyond a single four-year term. Zelaya denied any such intention. He took office as president in 2006, and his term was due to end in January 2010.

Reaction to his ouster was fierce in the hemisphere, and Honduras was suspended from the Organization of American States. Many countries, including the United States, cut off millions of dollars in aid to the impoverished country and threatened not to recognize the results of a presidential election scheduled for Nov. 29.
Zelaya sneaked back into Honduras last month and has been holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, the capital.

No text of the accord was released. Clinton said Zelaya would be reinstated but that the scope of his authority would be determined by the Honduran Congress. "I cannot think of another example of a country in Latin America that, having suffered a rupture of its democratic and constitutional order, overcame such a crisis through negotiation and dialogue," Clinton said. The United States will work with Honduras to ensure that the presidential election is legitimate, Clinton said.

Clinton dispatched Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon Jr. and Dan Restrepo, the National Security Council's representative for the Western Hemisphere, to Tegucigalpa this week to finalize the accord, after telephone conversations with Zelaya and Micheletti last Friday.

Clinton praised the OAS and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias for facilitating the talks.

October 30, 2009
Deal Reached in Honduras to Restore Ousted President

MEXICO CITY — A lingering political crisis in Honduras seemed to be nearing an end on Friday after the de facto government agreed to a deal, pending legislative approval, that would allow Manuel Zelaya, the deposed president, to return to office.
The government of Roberto Micheletti, which had refused to let Mr. Zelaya return, signed an agreement with Mr. Zelaya’s negotiators late Thursday that would pave the way for the Honduran Congress to restore the ousted president and allow him to serve out the remaining three months of his term. Both sides agreed to recognize the presidential election set for Nov. 29. Neither Mr. Zelaya nor Mr. Micheletti will be candidates. On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the deal “an historic agreement.”

“I cannot think of another example of a country in Latin America that, having suffered a rupture of its democratic and constitutional order, overcame such a crisis through negotiation and dialogue,” Mrs. Clinton said in Islamabad, where she has been meeting with Pakistani officials.

The accord came after a team of senior American diplomats flew to the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, from Washington on Wednesday to press for an agreement. On Thursday, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Thomas A. Shannon Jr., warned that time was running out for an agreement.

Mr. Micheletti’s government had argued that the Nov. 29 election would put an end to the crisis. But the United States, the Organization of American States and the United Nations suggested they would not recognize the results of the elections without a pre-existing agreement on Mr. Zelaya’s status. “We were very clearly on the side of the restoration of the constitutional order, and that includes the elections,” Mrs. Clinton said in Islamabad.

According to Mr. Micheletti, the accord reached late Thursday would establish a unity government and a verification commission to ensure that its conditions are carried out. It would also create a truth commission to investigate the events of the past few months. The agreement also reportedly asks the international community to recognize the results of the elections and to lift any sanctions that were imposed after the coup. The suspension of international aid has stalled badly needed projects in one of the region’s poorest countries.

Negotiators for both men were expected to meet Friday to work out final details. It was not clear what would happen if the Honduran Congress rejected the deal. Passage could mean a bookend to months of international pressure and political turmoil in Honduras, where regular marches by Mr. Zelaya’s supporters and curfews have paralyzed the capital.

Latin American governments had pressed the Obama administration to take a forceful approach to ending the political impasse, but Washington had let the Organization of American States take the lead and endorsed negotiations that were brokered by the Costa Rican president, Óscar Arias. But those talks stalled in July.
New negotiations began this month but broke down two weeks ago. With the Honduran elections approaching, the United States chose to step up pressure and dispatched Mr. Shannon, along with Dan Restrepo, the senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council.

Some Honduran political and business leaders have argued that the military coup that ousted Mr. Zelaya on June 28 was a legal response to his attempts to rewrite the Constitution and seek re-election. But that constituency was also concerned by his deepening alliance with Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Chávez.
Mr. Zelaya, who was initially deposited in Costa Rica, still in his nightclothes, sneaked back into the country on Sept. 21 and has been living at the Brazilian Embassy since then. It was unclear when Mr. Zelaya would be able to leave the embassy, which has had Honduran soldiers posted outside. The de facto government had said it would arrest him if he came out.

Ousted Honduran leader: Pact will restore me
By JUAN ZAMORANO, Associated Press Writer Juan Zamorano, Oct. 30, 2009

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Deposed President Manuel Zelaya and his opponents have agreed to a U.S.-brokered deal that he said will return him to power four months after a coup shook faith in Latin America's young democracies.
The power-sharing agreement reached late Thursday calls for Congress to decide whether to reinstate the leftist Zelaya. While the legislature backed his June 28 ouster, congressional leaders have since said they won't stand in the way of an agreement that ends Honduras' diplomatic isolation and legitimizes presidential elections planned for Nov. 29.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Thomas Shannon said Friday that the two sides finally made concessions after realizing the international community wouldn't recognize the elections or restore aid without a compromise."There was no more space for them to dither," he said.

Shannon cautioned that "there are a variety of moving parts to this agreement" and said he would stay in Honduras while the two sides negotiate the details.
Under the plan, a government of national unity would take office to oversee the elections and the transition to the next president, who will be inaugurated on Jan. 27. Neither Zelaya nor interim President Roberto Micheletti is running.

Most polls show lawmaker Porfirio Lobo of the National Party leading Elvin Santos of the Liberal Party to which both Zelaya and Micheletti belong."We are willing to be cooperative in Congress with the agreement of the negotiators," Lobo said Friday. "The best decision for Honduras will be taken."

The plan does not include a deadline for congress to act, but Zelaya told The Associated Press that he expects a decision in "more or less a week." Meanwhile, he said, he will remain at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, where he took refuge after slipping back into the country Sept. 21 from his forced exile. "I'm not going anywhere," he said Friday.

Soldiers still surrounded the embassy and floodlights still interrupted sleep, but it has been several days since troops have crowed and meowed in the wee hours to keep those inside awake.

Backers hugged Zelaya after hearing the news and one asked him to autograph a white cowboy hat resembling the one the deposed leader always wears. The hat already bore Shannon's signature. The breakthrough was a major foreign-policy victory for Obama. Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called it "an historic agreement," saying: "This is a big step forward for the inter-American system."

Zelaya was ousted after ignoring orders from the Supreme Court to abandon a referendum aimed at rewriting the constitution. Opponents said his secret plan was to lift a constitutional ban on presidential re-election; Zelaya denies that.
During his three years in office, Zelaya had alienated Honduras' elite by forming an increasingly strong alliance with Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chavez.
The new agreement would create a power-sharing government and bind both sides to recognize the presidential elections, as well as putting the armed forces under the command of electoral officials to ensure that the vote is legitimate. It also creates a truth commission and rejects amnesty for political crimes.

Micheletti called the pact a "significant concession" on his part.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Barbara Returns from Book Tour, Honduras Remains Unsettled

Hello, folks, have been busy and away, with no time to write here, but there hasn’t been any big breakthrough on Honduras meanwhile anyway, though various scenarios have been kicked around, like creating a power-sharing government or appointing an interim president who is neither Zelaya nor Micheletti.

But before getting into that, where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing? First, on Oct. 13, I spent the better part of an afternoon and evening interpreting for a national meeting of the SEIU, Service Employees International Union, taking place at the George Meany Labor College in Silver Spring, Md., a campus I didn’t know existed before. I sat at a table with Spanish-speaking union organizers from southern California. SEIU plans a big campaign to organize workers staffing nursing homes, educational facilities, and other venues for a large French corporation whose employees in France enjoy more benefits than those in the US.

Next day, in a rental car, I drove 6 hours to visit friends in Blacksburg, Va., met when my parents lived there, and to give some talks on the Peace Corps, Honduras, and my book, three talks in all. The first two took place on the Va. Tech campus and involved good audiences and lively discussions. I also invited a young man to dinner one evening, someone I’ve known from his childhood in my neighborhood. He was a volunteer in China and is now a grad student who also serves as the campus Peace Corps recruiter. However, my very last event, held at a bookstore on a rainy, chilly Friday night, must not have been well advertised, because only one person showed up! Win some, lose some. Book promotion and marketing involve hard work and just plain luck.

Back in DC, I got a notice that my book was named a Finalist for Best New Non-Fiction by National Best Books, so that’s still another award. I’m on the third version of my book now, having made little tweeks and corrections twice, each time having to pay someone to modify the pdf file, as I don’t have the necessary equipment myself, and sending it through the whole Amazon processing system again. I’ve mentioned two prior awards in the third and current version of the book, but don’t think it’s worth sending it through again to include mention of this latest one.

I’ve also begun reading the final book written by the late best-selling author Frank McCourt. This one, called Teacher Man, is in the same style as his two others (Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis). However, my gimlet eye fell immediately on a typo, in a section where he asks a high school student what he would do if he ran into the principal in the hall: “Turn your ahead away?” Obviously, that should be "head," not "ahead." It’s rare to find a book, no matter how famous the author, how many proofreaders have gone over it, or how large the press run without any mistakes, so probably I should not have been so nitpicky (obsessive?) about correcting small errors in my own book. But, having been an editor myself, I couldn’t let them be. I’ll just mention one, as an example. I had said that Nov. 1 is the Day of the Dead, but as the astute man reading my book for Recordings for the Blind noted, it’s really Nov. 2. Yes, I’d gotten confused between All Souls Day and All Saints Day. But once I knew Nov. 1 was wrong, I just had to change it. One of my correspondents, also an author, says that even though mainstream publishers send out as many as 100 free copies of a book to readers charged with catching errors, still, the average commercially published book has three errors and most self-published ones, many more.

On quite another subject, I attended a forum yesterday on the outlook for southern Sudan, an area of the world holding particular interest for me ever since my visit there in 2006. The speakers were Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, South Sudan’s representative in Washington, and Roger Winter, a veteran diplomat. To summarize, the north-south split (and the Darfur conflict) are a legacy of the divided-and-conquer strategy of British colonialism. The division now is a fait accompli, north and south essentially are two countries with different social, ethnic, and political systems requiring passports to pass across the divide. (When I was in South Sudan, I was issued a permission document by southern rebels good only for traveling in their territory.) The exact dividing line, however, is open to dispute, with much of the area that the bishop (readers of my article in America magazine will remember him) is trying to develop for southern Sudan located along that border. Gatkuoth estimated that at least 98% of voters in southern Sudan would vote for independence from the north, also my own impression when I was there. The problem will be achieving a peaceful disengagement. Of course, the south has oil reserves, the north a seaport, and the north’s President Bashir is under indictment for war crimes in Darfur. High marks were given to current US efforts in South Sudan and Darfur, although Winter expressed some misgivings about US envoy General Scott Grayson, whom he described as energetic and well-meaning, but inexperienced in the region.

We hear virtually nothing about the current Honduran presidential candidates and their positions on Zelaya’s ouster. We can only wonder also about their take on economic issues and the blatant income inequalities of the current system, on which much of Zelaya’s popularity rests. Additionally, what positions do they take on the economic sanctions being imposed on Honduras, a nation already among the region’s poorest and further suffering from reduced remittances from US-based relatives? Merchants are experiencing reduced sales and, in the cities, have borne the effects of wholesale looting. If any such debates are occurring within Honduras, we don’t hear about them.

I believe the majority of Hondurans will support their election outcome, with or without monitors, before the international community will recognize it. That is the problem. While there is a substantial proportion of the population who support Zelaya and a probably an equal proportion who oppose him, I get the sense that most Hondurans now just want the whole fight to be over. They were squeezed economically before and now it's even worse with the withdrawal of aid and loans, Chavez' removal of cheap oil, and the reduction in remittances because of the recession. Yet, the Peace Corps is still operating there and lots of people turned out for the World Cup qualifying soccer game held in S. Pedro Sula, which Honduras lost to the US. So, outside Teguc, it's pretty much business as usual, but harder than ever. I've heard nothing about campaigning by the Nov. presidential candidates and their position on Zelaya's return (though one represents his party). Also, I do think the Honduran powers-that-be have to address the vast economic inequalities and sheer hand-to-mouth poverty of so many Hondurans. Zelaya gave them hope, perhaps false hope, demagogic hope, if his own erratic conduct and that of his mentor Chavez are any indication, but many still believe in him. And repression and mistreatment by security forces has just hardened their resolve. I think both sides in this dispute have acted irresponsibly and not in the interests of the majority of the people. But I've given up predicting what will happen next. I'm really sad about the current situation because this was a country that was barely making it before.

An e-mail that just came in from southern Honduras strongly supports Zelaya, but admits that both sides have made mistakes and expresses hope that the matter will be settled soon. Meanwhile, I'm praying for some agreement in Honduras that may not be optimal and not please everybody, but that will be minimally acceptable and face-saving for all parties, both inside and outside the country. Hope that's not being utopian. It now looks as though the US might agree to monitoring and recognizing the Nov. election without Zelaya’s restoration beforehand.

From my blog readers:
No hay peor sordo que quien no quiere oir ni ciego que el que no quiere ver. El acuerdo entree Zelaya y Micheletti se va a lograr pacificamente cuando las ranas crien pelos!(There’s no worse deaf person than one who doesn’t listen nor blind one who doesn’t want to see. A peaceful agreement between Zelaya and Micheletti will be achieved when frogs grow hair!)

A reader makes a correction: Had to laugh at one regular’s guess that Micheletti is a Taurus. I looked: he’s a Leo. Like Fidel, like Obama.

Still another says: Barbara, I hope that I am wrong but I still do not think that despite all the internal and external pressure that has been leveled on him that Micheletti will agree to Zelaya's return. Right now he seems to be maneuvering to put the blame of not accepting the negotiating agreement on someone else. Apparently he thinks that the Supreme Court is more willing to turn it down than the Congress so he is asking it to decide. Of course, sub rosa I presume he is pressuring his cronies in the Supreme Court to turn the negotiated agreement down. Micheletti is one hell of a Machiavellian politician!

From the local Spanish-language press comes word that Honduras is going to the soccer World Cup(despite earlier loss to the US)being held in South Africa in 2010.
That got bigger headlines than anything about the political situation. Another article quotes Oscar Arias lamenting that the Honduran Constitution has no impeachment clause, leading to the current impasse. Other articles report that the resistance is growing and that Zelaya announced Oct. 15 as the end date for negotiations, a date now behind us. Negotiations are continuing, media freedoms have been restored, and Zelaya supporters are still demonstrating. Below are press reports, beginning with the most recent.

Honduran negotiator says coup talks at impasse
Associated Press
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 12:52 AM

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- A top aide to ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya says negotiations to solve the country's three-month old political crisis are once again at an impasse. Negotiator Victor Meza accuses the interim government of obstructing progress by insisting that Congress and the Supreme Court be consulted on whether Zelaya can be reinstated. The court has already said Zelaya should not be allowed to return.

Meza said Monday that Zelaya's team will not return to the table until Roberto Micheletti's government presents a "constructive proposal." But he added that they will not break off talks entirely.

Zelaya was ousted June 28 after he defied Supreme Court orders to cancel a referendum on a constitutional rewrite.

From Spanish-language website, Democracia Participativa, Oct. 17, 2009 [It says, essentially, that the sticking point is Zelaya’s return to power, though the negotiations are said to be “cordial.”]

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Negociadores del Gobierno de facto y del depuesto presidente de Honduras Manuel Zelaya llegaron el miércoles a un acuerdo preliminar para superar la crisis desatada por el golpe de Estado, pero aún no coinciden en el punto clave: la vuelta del mandatario al poder. Las partes rivales consensuaron un texto único preliminar de varios puntos, que aún tenía que ser aprobado por Zelaya y por el presidente de facto, Roberto Micheletti, dijo el delegado zelayista Víctor Meza.

Pero los representantes del Gobierno de facto aclararon que todavía no llegaron a un consenso en el punto medular del acuerdo, el retorno de Zelaya al poder después de haber sido derrocado y expulsado del país el 28 de junio por militares. "El diálogo sobre este punto ha sido cordial y ambas partes hemos alcanzado importantes avances. Sin embargo, hasta este momento, no hay ningún acuerdo final en torno a este punto", dijo el equipo negociador de Micheletti en un comunicado.

Is U.S. Opposition to the Honduran Coup Lessening? Tim Padgett
16 October 2009

Toppled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya speaks during a meeting with advisers and negotiators inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa on Oct. 12, 2009. The negotiations that were revived this week in the hope of resolving the Honduran coup crisis still haven't cracked the critical issue: whether ousted President Manuel Zelaya will be restored to office and allowed to finish the final three months of his term. The U.S., the Organization of American States (OAS) and every other nation in the world have condemned the June 28 military coup as antidemocratic — and they've warned the installed President, Roberto Micheletti, that they won't recognize the results of Honduras' long-planned Nov. 29 presidential election if Zelaya isn't reinstated beforehand.

But there are growing signs that the U.S. may be willing to abandon that condition. A number of well-placed sources in Honduras and the U.S. tell TIME that officials in the State Department and the U.S.'s OAS delegation have informed them that the Obama Administration is mulling ways to legitimize the election should talks fail to restore Zelaya in time. "We're suddenly hearing from them that the one may no longer be a [precondition] for the other," says a Western diplomat in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, where Zelaya is currently holed up in the Brazilian embassy.

Zelaya warned this week that legitimizing the election "without the reinstatement of the constitutional President would only legitimize" the coup. But U.S. officials, while insisting they've not given up on restoring Zelaya before Nov. 29, acknowledge they're considering a Plan B — perhaps brokering more international oversight of the balloting while forging a deal that reinstates Zelaya after the election so that he can finish out his term, which ends on Jan. 27. "We've always preferred a restoration of constitutional and democratic order in Honduras that includes the restoration of Manuel Zelaya," one State official tells TIME. "But the elections are going to take place either way, and the international community needs to come to terms with that fact."

The official concedes that recognizing an election held while an illegitimate regime is in power is a "significant challenge." It may be even harder given recent actions by that regime: in the past three weeks, Micheletti has cracked down on civil rights, shuttered pro-Zelaya broadcasters and decreed that more media will be muzzled if they "transmit messages that incite national hate." Micheletti, a devout Roman Catholic who has said he's on a calling from God, lifted many of his emergency decrees during a visit last week by U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a Micheletti supporter. But human-rights groups like Amnesty International say police and soldiers are still blocking street protests.

October 15, 2009
Accounts at Odds on Honduras Deal

MEXICO CITY — There were reports of a deal on Wednesday, followed by reports of no deal. By the end of the day, the Honduras political standoff was mired in the same confusion that has characterized it from the start. A negotiator for Manuel Zelaya, the country’s leader who was ousted on June 28, raised hopes by telling reporters that significant progress had been made in talks with representatives of Roberto Micheletti, leader of the de facto government.

Victor Meza, the Zelaya negotiator, said a tentative deal, which he hinted would restore Mr. Zelaya to the presidency, had been sent to Mr. Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti for approval. But soon afterward Mr. Micheletti’s representatives reported that there was no agreement to return Mr. Zelaya to office and that negotiations would continue on Thursday.

The proposals being floated were reported to be all over the map, including the idea of appointing an interim president — neither Mr. Micheletti nor Mr. Zelaya — to lead the country. A key deadline looms because presidential elections are scheduled for Nov. 29, and the United States and other countries have threatened not to recognize them unless the standoff is resolved.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Is Time Running Out in Honduras?

While the Honduras political crisis remains unresolved, the country suffered another blow on Saturday, the 3-2 loss to the US in San Pedro Sula in a World Cup Qualifying game.

I keep waiting for some sort of agreement on Honduras before looking to join a group that may be doing election monitoring, because I don't think the November elections will be considered legitimate worldwide unless that happens. Having several Republicans supporting the interim government is no real help, except that it might make Micheletti and company feel that at least someone understands them and may give them false hope. However, it's conceivable that if elections do go forward without an agreement, then a new president takes office in late January, and Zelaya still remains holed up in the Brazilian Embassy that some sort of amnesty will be accorded and the international community, or some countries, will gradually restore ties and aid. At least, that may be an outcome that Micheletti is betting on. But I think Honduras will remain crippled for some time. So, I haven't made any moves yet to try to join a monitoring team. Unless a team is well-recognized, I really don't see the point.

As I believe I’ve already mentioned, I’ll be giving some book readings at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., later this week, so I don’t expect to be posting again for a while unless there is an immediate breakthrough. If anyone has comments, I recommend that they contact me at my Yahoo address, as I don’t always remember to look for them on the blog itself.

New media measures take effect in Honduras
Associated Press
Saturday, October 10, 2009 9:09 PM

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Honduras' interim leaders put in place new rules Saturday that threaten broadcasters with closure for airing reports that "attack national security," further restricting media freedom following the closure of two opposition stations. The latest decree is sure to anger supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya and appears to be a challenge to the Organization of American States and a team of regional diplomats who were in the country Thursday to push for a resolution of the crisis. A statement released by the OAS delegation urged the coup-installed government to, among other things, allow the resumption of operations at the two broadcasters, which backed Zelaya's return to office.

Under the decree imposed by the government of interim President Roberto Micheletti, "the frequencies of radio or television stations may be canceled if they transmit messages that incite national hate and the destruction of public property." Officials can monitor and control broadcast messages that "attack national security," according to the decree.
It was adopted by the Interior Ministry and will be enforced by the National Telecommunications Commission, interim Information Minister Rene Zepeda told The Associated Press.

Micheletti was sworn in Honduras' interim president following a June 28 coup that ousted Zelaya and sent him into exile. After Zelaya suddenly reappeared in Honduras and took refuge in the Brazilian Embassy on Sept. 21, street protests prompted the Micheletti government to limit freedom of expression, association and movement, and to shut down two pro-Zelaya broadcasters.

The restriction on civil liberties has been lifted, but Channel 36 and Radio Globo are still off the air. Micheletti said they would remain shut down until their owners "come to the courts to recover their right to be on the air." "We thought that when the (civil liberties) decree was revoked, the equipment would be returned, but that has not happened," said Yesenia Herculano, an activist with Honduras' Committee for Free Expression, earlier this week. "There has been no progress."
Talks on resolving the bitter divide over Zelaya's ousters produced some signs of progress before breaking off for the weekend.

On Friday, police fired tear gas and a water cannon at about 200 pro-Zelaya protesters who demonstrated outside the hotel where negotiations were taking place. There were no arrests and apparently no major injuries, though many people rubbed their eyes or had tears streaming from their eyes because of the acrid smoke.
The international community has been pressuring the Micheletti government to allow Zelaya's return before the Nov. 29 presidential election that was scheduled before the coup. Zelaya was toppled after he pressed ahead with plans for a referendum on changing the constitution despite a Supreme Court order ruling the vote illegal. The U.S. and other nations have suspended foreign aid and imposed diplomatic isolation on the interim administration.

October 10, 2009
Wrong Advice

The de facto Honduran government of Roberto Micheletti is listening to the wrong people. Since the military deposed the president, Manuel Zelaya, in June, Mr. Micheletti and his aides have received two American Congressional delegations — all Republicans — and they are getting additional free advice from former Republican officials who are clearly nostalgic for the cold war. Those days are over. Mr. Micheletti should instead pay attention to what he is being told by every democratically elected government in the hemisphere: President Zelaya must be reinstated to office. Nothing else will do.

Mr. Micheletti and his backers argued that they did everybody a favor by removing an erratic populist who was all too cozy with Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela. Now they think they can stall through next month’s presidential election, hoping that the arrival of a new president will mean an end to sanctions and diplomatic isolation. “You don’t know the truth, or you don’t want to know it,” Mr. Micheletti angrily told a group of envoys from the Organization of American States, the United States, Canada and several Latin American governments who were in Tegucigalpa, Honduras’s capital, this week on an unsuccessful mission to solve the impasse.

But it is Mr. Micheletti who refuses to understand. Coups against democratically elected leaders, once the norm in Latin America, are no longer acceptable. There are signs that continued pressure may convince the de facto government to reinstate Mr. Zelaya under terms negotiated by the Costa Rican president, Óscar Arias. The deal would grant an amnesty to both sides and guarantee that Mr. Zelaya would do nothing to tinker with the Constitution or try to hang on to power.

The leading candidates for president — including the one from Mr. Micheletti’s party — have held talks with Mr. Zelaya, who sneaked back into Honduras and is holed up in the Brazilian Embassy.

Business leaders are getting especially antsy about the country’s increasing isolation. The leader of the Honduran Manufacturers Association has called for restoring the deposed leader with limited powers while granting Mr. Micheletti a lifetime seat in Congress. A former finance minister who backed the coup is saying that he would support Mr. Zelaya’s reinstatement, after the election, so he could finish out his term that ends in January.

Time is running out. If Mr. Micheletti and his backers expect the next Honduran government to be recognized as legitimate by the international community, it must restore Mr. Zelaya to office now.

Honduran Leadership Finds Friends Among GOP Lawmakers
By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 9, 2009

In the three months since soldiers expelled Honduras's leftist president, the Obama administration and the rest of the world have shunned the Central American country, cutting off aid and travel visas. But the isolated Honduran leadership has found one lifeline: Republicans on Capitol Hill. Within days of President Manuel Zelaya's ouster on June 28, the Honduran elite launched a lobbying campaign in Washington, arguing that the leftist leader had been a menace to their country. The de facto Honduran government and its allies have spent at least $600,000 on public-relations experts and lobbyists from both parties, including Lanny Davis, who was special counsel to President Bill Clinton.

Although the Hondurans have not succeeded in reversing U.S. policy, their arguments have found favor with some American lawmakers. A Republican senator has blocked two key nominations for Latin America, weakening President Obama's diplomatic team. In the past week, two GOP delegations have traveled to Honduras to meet with the de facto government, which is not recognized internationally.

Those actions have complicated the strategy of the Obama administration, which has been seeking to impress a growing crop of leftist Latin American leaders with its pro-democracy credentials. The administration is pressing for a negotiated solution in Honduras and worries that the de facto government is trying to run out the clock until the Nov. 29 presidential election -- with the support of its allies in Washington. "It gives [the de facto government] this hope you can hang on," said one U.S. official, who was not authorized to speak on the record. "It's not helpful."
Republicans say they are trying to prevent the spread of a leftist, anti-American ideology promoted by Venezuela's leader, Hugo Chávez -- a close ally of Zelaya's. "We've seen these power-hungry leaders of South and Central America take command and never let go. It's a worrisome trend," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), a longtime critic of Chávez.

But other Republicans who have befriended the de facto government have little or no experience in the region, such as Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), an outspoken Obama foe. That has given rise to speculation that they are playing politics. "It's about the Republicans using what they can to attack the administration," said Julia E. Sweig, a Latin America expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. "It's definitely bigger than Latin America."

Some analysts say the pushback has made the Obama administration more cautious on Honduras. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview last month, however, that U.S. efforts to seek a negotiated solution have "certainly put us on the right side of the dispute."

The Honduran crisis began when Zelaya, a rancher who had positioned himself as a champion of the poor, was arrested by soldiers and whisked out of the country on a military plane. Obama quickly joined the rest of the hemisphere's leaders in declaring that "the coup was not legal."

In the next few days, though, it became clear that this was no typical Latin American military coup. The Honduran Supreme Court revealed that the military was acting on an arrest warrant it had issued for Zelaya on charges that included treason. The accusations stemmed from his campaign for constitutional reform, which many Hondurans saw as an effort to entrench himself in power. Although the arrest may have been legitimate, the military's expulsion of Zelaya was a "direct violation" of the constitution, according to an analysis by the U.S. Congress's legal research arm.

Clinton has backed a plan that would reinstate Zelaya with reduced powers until the end of his term in January. Roberto Micheletti, who has assumed the Honduran presidency, has rejected the plan. Isolated internationally, Micheletti and his supporters have taken their case to the U.S. Congress. A group of Honduran businessmen backing Micheletti hired Roger F. Noriega, a top Latin America official in the Bush administration, to organize a meeting in July with Republican lawmakers. "It's the most senators I've seen in a room on Latin America in at least a decade," said Dan Fisk, another former Bush official who until recently was a Senate aide.

"What caught a number of senators' attention . . . is that all of a sudden you had the United States, Chávez and [Cuban leader Fidel] Castro on the same side," said Fisk, who has provided unpaid advice to DeMint's office. Fisk and Noriega have long been known as staunch opponents of Cuba's government and its supporters in Latin America.

Another group of Honduran businessmen hired Davis for a fee of at least $350,000. He wrangled an invitation to testify at a congressional hearing on Honduras in July and met with lawmakers from both parties. Davis said in an interview that he has not spoken to Clinton about Honduras and that he has backed her calls for a negotiated solution. In addition, the de facto government signed a $292,000 contract with a politically connected public relations firm in Washington.

Zelaya, in contrast, has relied largely on his ambassador in Washington to make contacts in Congress. "We don't have money to pay anyone. It's an unequal fight," said Ambassador Eduardo Enrique Reina.

For two months, DeMint has protested the Obama administration's Honduras policy by holding up a vote on its nominees for assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, and ambassador to Brazil, Thomas A. Shannon Jr. The senator has built a following as an Obama critic, saying in July that conservatives could "break" the president by thwarting his health-care reform efforts. But DeMint denied he was using the Honduras issue to pummel the president. "This is not about Obama. This is about foreign policy," he said. "What I'm trying to do is get some of the facts on the table and encourage the administration to take a fair look.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Honduran Solution Remains Stubbornly Elusive

Well, folks, contrary to my announced intentions, I’ve continued posting on this blog, but still may take a break over the weekend to celebrate my great-grandson’s second birthday and give a book reading, as mentioned last time, as well as prepare for my trip to Va. Tech to give more readings later in the week. Now I have six official blog followers, one of whom I actually know. A number of others also contact me from time-to-time directly by e-mail.

Here’s one regular blog reader’s observation: Micheletti seems as eager to comply as Fidel Castro is to step down from the position as First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party. I have a feeling he will persist and hold the elections, hoping for a change in the international sentiment, unless the rest of the Honduran oligarchy chickens out fearing the prolongation of sanctions or the army revolts and gives a coup or simply refuses to continue repressing Zelaya's supporters. It will not be a simple task to get him to back down. Micheletti seems to have a taurine temperament. I’ll bet he has a Taurus zodiacal sign! Come to think of it, the guy is a cattleman so maybe that type of behavior comes naturally to him!

Writing in the Wall St. Journal (Oct. 9, 2009), Lanny Davis, a DC attorney who has worked both for Bill Clinton and GW Bush, proposes that both Zelaya and Micheletti resign (presumably with amnesties all around) and that a conciliation government be formed to look at making constitutional and economic reforms providing for a more equitable distribution of wealth. Sounds good, sounds almost utopian, the idea of a conciliation government, but perhaps there are persons of goodwill and sufficient influence and ability on both sides willing to undertake such a task? I haven’t seen anyone yet in Honduras proposing such an agreement and the whole history of Honduran politics and, indeed of politics everywhere, especially in Latin America, is one of winner-take-all. And, in this case, both Micheletti and Zelaya seem to sincerely believe they are in the right, morally and legally. Maybe Obama, as this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, should offer to step in as mediator to show the way.

The following item is quite worrisome. Wealthy Hondurans are concerned about protecting their property should Zelaya return to power or urge his followers to engage in continued class warfare. And maybe Zelaya was not so far off the mark when he accused interim government mercenaries (Israelis, he said) of beaming harmful rays into the Brazilian Embassy. (See also second article below, could Zelaya possibly end up spending years inside the embassy?) At the same time, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan agents are also said to be inside Honduras, making this a genuine international clash.

U.N. experts concerned Colombia fighters in Honduras
Friday, October 9, 2009 7:37 AM

GENEVA - U.N. human rights experts voiced concern Friday at reports that former paramilitaries from Colombia had been recruited to protect wealthy people and property in Honduras after that country's military coup. The U.N. working group on the use of mercenaries said "information available to date" suggested that land-owners hired 40 former members of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia as guards after violence erupted between supporters of the de facto government and backers of deposed President Manuel Zelaya.

They also cited reports that 120 paramilitaries from several neighboring countries had been brought in to support the late-June coup that has triggered Central America's worst crisis in years. "We urge the Honduran authorities to take all practical measures to prevent the use of mercenaries within its territory and to fully investigate allegations concerning their presence and activities," the five independent experts said in a joint statement issued in Geneva.

Honduras has signed an international convention barring the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenary fighters, noted the group members: Shaista Shameem of Fiji, Najat al-Hajjaji of Libya, Amada Benavides de Perez of Colombia, Jose Luis Gomez del Prado of Spain and Alexander Nikitin of Russia. The experts also raised concerns about "allegations of discriminate use of long-range acoustic devices" by police and mercenary forces to harass Zelaya and his supporters who have taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa.

Honduran Coup Regime in Crisis
Greg Grandin
The Nation
8 October 2009

How long can the Honduran crisis drag on, with President Manuel Zelaya, ousted in a military coup more than three months ago, trapped in Tegucigalpa's Brazilian Embassy? Well, in early 1949 in Peru, Víctor Haya de la Torre--one of last century's most important Latin American politicians--sought asylum in the Colombian Embassy in Lima, also following a military coup. There he remained for nearly six years, playing chess, baking cakes for the embassy staff's children and writing books. Soldiers surrounded the building for the duration, with Peru's authoritarian regime ignoring calls from the international community to end the siege, which was condemned by the Washington Post as a "canker in hemisphere relations."

So far Roberto Micheletti, installed by the coup as president, is showing the same obstinacy. Shortly after Zelaya's surprise appearance in the Brazilian Embassy on September 21 after having entered the country unnoticed, probably from El Salvador or Nicaragua, the de facto president ordered troops to violently disperse a large crowd that had gathered around the embassy, using tear gas, clubs and rubber bullets, killing a number of protesters and wounding many. Amnesty International has documented a "sharp rise in police beatings, mass arrests of demonstrators, and intimidation of human rights defenders" since Zelaya's return.

The government has suspended civil liberties and shut down independent sources of news, including the TV station Cholusat Sur and Radio Globo. In response to rolling protests throughout Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, security forces continue to round up demonstrators, holding some of the detained in soccer stadiums--evoking Chile in 1973, after Augusto Pinochet's junta overthrew Salvador Allende, when security forces turned Santiago's National Stadium into a torture chamber. The Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH) says Hondurans are indeed being tortured, burned with cigarettes and sodomized by batons, and that some of the torturers are veterans of Battalion 316, an infamous Honduran death squad from the 1980s. Police and soldiers raided the offices of the National Agrarian Institute, capturing dozens of peasant activists who had been occupying the building. Police also fired tear gas into COFADEH's office, which at the time was filled with about a hundred people, many of them women and children, denouncing the repression that had earlier taken place in front of the embassy. "Honduras risks spiraling into a state of lawlessness, where police and military act with no regard for human rights or the rule of law," said Susan Lee, Americas director at Amnesty International.

Back at the embassy, Honduran troops have tormented Zelaya and his accompaniers, including the Catholic priest Father Andres Tamayo, with tear gas, other chemical weapons and sonic devices that emit high-pitched and extreme-pain-inducing sounds. This high-tech assault has largely been ignored by the international media, though George W. Bush's former ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, told Fox News that Zelaya's description of this harassment indicated "delusional behavior."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

OAS Sets Oct. 15 Deadline, Interim Gov't Hires US Lobbyists (Cold War Redux?)

Read an article in today’s NY Times that book sales are down. No surprise, since all sales are down, but books seem to have taken an especially hard hit because, for most people, they’re a luxury, not a necessity. I’m well aware of the downturn in book sales, but at least I have a few readings lined up, first this weekend for a local group in my neighborhood called Capitol Hill Village, an organization dedicated to helping people age in place, then next week, two readings at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg (will rent a car to go there). After that, I’ll be selling them at an Amnesty International regional conference to benefit that organization. It’s fun to meet new people and talk about the Peace Corps, Honduras, and my book, but it’s also time-consuming. If lots of folks would just order the book from Amazon, I’d be all set, though I’d miss the all the fun and human interaction.

As for the new Honduran negotiations being carried out under OAS auspices, I’m not sure if they are really a hopeful sign or just another stalling tactic. Miami’s El Nuevo Herald reports that Micheletti has offered to step down if Zelaya will do the same (he refuses), but says the Nov. 29 elections will go forward, no matter what. However, today’s Washington Post reports that the interim government has been given an ultimatum by the OAS, namely, that Zelaya must be restored to office before Oct. 15 for the Nov. 29 elections to be recognized—otherwise they must be postponed. Maybe postponement of the election, though it would drag out the process, would not be such a bad option for the interim government?

I can imagine that Zelaya is getting cabin fever, but that's the chance he took in going that route. That he would now blame the OAS for foot-dragging is incredible, as that organization has given him 100% support. And although one of my commentators believes the army may have been complicit in letting Zelaya get through, I can readily imagine him riding in the trunk of a vehicle or even in the back of a covered pick-up coming across from El Salvador without anyone being the wiser. I doubt his journey took three days, as he reported, because that would have increased the risk and Honduras is not that big. Of course, there are checkpoints along major roads, but he could have been hidden when passing through or even have gotten out and walked, then met his transport on the other side. Usually, it doesn't take much to get through a checkpoint unless there is suspicion, especially if money is offered to the young soldiers managing the checkpoint. The latter is pretty routine and wouldn't necessarily qualify as army support of Zelaya. Of course, military collusion with him on his journey is also a distinct possibility.

The Cuban-born Congresspeople who went to Honduras had the advantage of being able to speak Spanish directly with interim government folks and, also, they understand what's at stake, especially the Diaz-Balarts, who are Fidel Castro's relatives by marriage. But they are all Republicans and considered staunch conservatives, so aren't likely to have much influence on the Obama administration, although I don't think the Obama administration, or even the OAS, is as strongly behind Zelaya as it was initially. He has behaved erratically, in my opinion, and is not following the advice of either the US or the OAS. Maybe he is listening only to Chavez, who is not exactly a model of diplomacy.

Someone forwarded me a 24-page document in English that served as the basis of a presentation by a member of the Honduran chamber of commerce to a university audience in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Apparently, the visa cancellations meted out by the Obama administration have not been copied by Brazil.) It includes the whole history of the country, dissects the constitution, gives the arguments against Zelaya, shows photos of violent demonstrators, and ends up with cartoons making fun of Zelaya and his association with Chavez and the Castro brothers. One of the items mentioned is Zelaya’s raising of the minimum wage by 60%, up to $290 per month (benefiting Peace Corps volunteers, who were raised to that level), while labor unions had asked only for a 20% raise. The document also alleges that the US ambassador to Honduras favors Zelaya, which might account for the initial strong condemnation of the “coup” by the US, which has since cooled off somewhat.

Probably Zelaya’s partisans could compile an equally compelling document on their side. The problem now is not to justify one position or another, but to come a peaceful agreement and solution. I don't think the interim government’s partisans are going to convince most of the rest of the world on the basis of the legalities of their position. Zelaya's people are still saying that the constitution needs to be changed, even though Zelaya may not be saying that himself right now. It's a genuine power struggle, a class struggle, and a larger geo-political struggle, the Cold War all over again. A lot is at stake. But, for the Obama administration, Honduras seems more a nagging annoyance more than a real priority. Of course, it’s hard to envision a solution that would be agreeable to both sides. Even the unflappable Arias seems to exasperated.

Correction: Now news reports are saying that the indigenous Lencas sought asylum in the Guatemalan Embassy in Teguc, not in Guatemala itself.

Regarding the report below about the de facto government’s hiring of US lobbyists, where are they getting the money? A similar article appears in the Washington Post.

October 8, 2009
Leader Ousted, Honduras Hires U.S. Lobbyists

WASHINGTON — First, depose a president. Second, hire a lobbyist.

In the months since soldiers ousted the Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, the de facto government and its supporters have resisted demands from the United States that he be restored to power. Arguing that the left-leaning Mr. Zelaya posed a threat to their country’s fragile democracy by trying to extend his time in office illegally, they have made their case in Washington in the customary way: by starting a high-profile lobbying campaign. The campaign has had the effect of forcing the administration to send mixed signals about its position to the de facto government, which reads them as signs of encouragement. It also has delayed two key State Department appointments in the region.

Costing at least $400,000 so far, according to lobbying registration records, the campaign has involved law firms and public relations agencies with close ties to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator John McCain, a leading Republican voice on foreign affairs. It has also drawn support from several former high-ranking officials who were responsible for setting United States policy in Central America in the 1980s and ’90s, when the region was struggling to break with the military dictatorships and guerrilla insurgencies that defined the cold war. Two decades later, those former officials — including Otto Reich, Roger Noriega and Daniel W. Fisk — view Honduras as the principal battleground in a proxy fight with Cuba and Venezuela, which they characterize as threats to stability in the region in language similar to that once used to describe the designs of the Soviet Union.
“The current battle for political control of Honduras is not only about that small nation,” Mr. Reich testified in July before Congress. “What happens in Honduras may one day be seen as either the high-water mark of Hugo Chávez’s attempt to undermine democracy in this hemisphere or as a green light to the spread of Chavista authoritarianism,” he said, referring to the Venezuelan president.

Mr. Noriega, who was a co-author of the Helms-Burton Act, which tightened the United States embargo against Cuba, and who has recently served as a lobbyist for a Honduran business group, declined to comment for this article.

Mr. Reich, who served in key Latin America posts for President Ronald Reagan and President George W. Bush, said he had not lobbied officially for any Honduran group. But he said he had used his connections to push the agenda of the de facto government, led by Roberto Micheletti, because he believed that the Obama administration had made a mistake.

And Mr. Fisk, whose political career has included stints on the National Security Council and as a deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs under Mr. Bush, had been promoting the Micheletti government’s case until two weeks ago as an aide to retired Senator Mel Martinez of Florida.

In addition to the support of such cold war veterans — and partly because of it — the de facto government has mobilized the support of a determined group of Republican legislators, led by Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina. They are holding up two State Department appointments as a way of pressing the Obama administration to lift sanctions against the country. “We have made a wrong call here,” Mr. DeMint said in an interview with Fox News after returning from a trip to Honduras last Friday. Referring to the de facto government, he said, “This is probably our best friend in the hemisphere, the most pro-American country, but we are trying to strangle them.”

Chris Sabatini, editor of Americas Quarterly, a policy journal focusing on Latin America, said the lobbying had muddled Washington’s position on the coup. The administration has said publicly that it sees the coup in Honduras as a dangerous development in a region that not too long ago was plagued by them, he said. But, he added, to placate its opponents in Congress, and have its nominations approved, the State Department has sometimes sent back-channel messages to legislators expressing its support for Mr. Zelaya in more equivocal terms. “There’s been a leadership vacuum on Honduras in the administration, and these are the people who’ve filled it,” he said of the Micheletti government’s backers. “They haven’t gotten a lot of support, but enough to hold the administration’s policy hostage for now.”

After the June 28 coup, President Obama joined the region in condemning the action and calling for President Zelaya to be returned to power, even though the Honduran president is an ally of Mr. Chávez, America’s biggest adversary in the region.But Congressional aides said that less than 10 days after Mr. Zelaya was ousted, Mr. Noriega organized a meeting for supporters of the de facto government with members of the Senate.Mr. Fisk, who attended the meeting, said he was stunned by the turnout. “I had never seen eight senators in one room to talk about Latin America in my entire career,” he said.

As President Obama imposed increasingly tougher sanctions on Honduras, the lobbying intensified. The Cormac Group, run by a former aide to Senator McCain, John Timmons, signed on, records show, as did Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter & Associates, a public relations firm. For his part, Mr. Reich sent his thoughts to members of Congress by e-mail. “We should rejoice,” he wrote to one member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “that one of the self-proclaimed 21st Century socialist allies of Chávez has been legally deposed by his own countrymen.”

As is often the nature of lobbying, some messages have been sent without any names attached. Floating around Senate offices in the last few weeks, for example, was a list of talking points aimed at undermining the nomination of Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon as ambassador to Brazil. Two Congressional aides, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about matters related to the coup, said that Mr. Fisk wrote the talking points. Mr. Fisk denied having done so. He also dismissed the notion that he was operating from an old playbook. “Someone else may be fighting over the ’80s,” he said. “I’m not.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Modest Hopes Raised for OAS Talks, Lencas Seek Asylum in Guatemala

Now, Zelaya is expressing doubts about whether he can trust members of the interim government to keep any agreement, just as they doubt they can trust him, and he also seems critical of the OAS, which has been basically on his side from the beginning. Maybe he is feeling stir-crazy, cooped up there in the Brazilian Embassy, fearing to exit without an agreement because of arrest threats. And the media curbs reported lifted yesterday apparently have not been lifted completely yet. But now there seems to be some possibility of movement after all. After promising to take a break from this blog until something new came in, perhaps optimistic pronouncements from OAS negotiators qualify. Certainly everyone is tired and is looking toward a solution. In any case, here goes. I was also heartened to discover for the first time—blogging novice that I am—that 5 people have registered as followers of my blog, all new names and faces to me. Hope what’s posted here has proved informative to all of you.

Here’s a comment and question from a blog reader: Some of your readers have sense-makingly suggested that Micheletti fears that if Zelaya were returned to office, he’d set up another party and then declare that its candidate had a right to run in the election. Hasn’t Arias been acquainted with this concern? Or perhaps it occurred to him independently. Wasn’t the point of having the mediator talk individually with each side precisely to allow both parties to outline best- and worst-case scenarios? Yet it seems that the Arias plan doesn’t cover this contingency. Obviously Zelaya would have rejected any plan that imposed prior restraints on the exercise of his presidential powers upon restoration to office, and of course there has to be confidentiality in the mediation process itself. But nothing is stopping Micheletti from saying, “Look, we can’t just let Zelaya back in with full presidential powers because here’s what he’d do. . . .” I think Micheletti would have much more sympathy from the world at large if people to whom goings-on in Honduras are just one of many long-running stories were made aware of how Zelaya apparently wants to use the letter of the law to contravene the spirit of the constitution.

According to a report in Miami’s El Nuevo Herald, 12 indigenous Lencas from Hondurans have asked for asylum in neighboring Guatemala because of alleged persecution by interim government authorities for their participation in marches in support of Zelaya. Readers of my book will recall that I spent my last year in Honduras in La Esperanza, the main city in the Lenca region. (This asylum request is also mentioned in the article below.)

Honduras talks hopes brighter, Zelaya doubts rival

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 12:46 AM

TEGUCIGALPA - The chance of a negotiated end to the Honduran crisis crept closer on Tuesday as mediators set up talks between de facto leaders and ousted President Manuel Zelaya, trapped by soldiers inside Brazil's embassy. Foreign ministers and diplomats from the Organization of American States will arrive on Wednesday in the poor coffee growing country to oversee a meeting between representatives of Zelaya and Roberto Micheletti, the de facto leader who took power after a June 28 coup.
In a live television broadcast, Micheletti said political amnesty and the division of power are on the table but did not raise Zelaya's possible return to office as a solution to a crisis that has put soldiers armed with guns and clubs on the streets, echoing Central America's Cold War-era troubles.

The visit by foreign ministers from Mexico and Central America will be Micheletti's first contact with high-level politicians on home turf since the putsch. Zelaya says Micheletti has agreed to dialogue only to gain legitimacy. "At the bottom of this there is absolutely nothing more than bad intentions," the leftist logging magnate told TV station Canal 11 by telephone from his base in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Taking a tough stance ahead of talks, he accused the OAS of being soft on his opponent who he says is playing for time to keep the de facto government alive longer. Despite his doubts, negotiations are set for the afternoon between three of Zelaya's envoys and Micheletti's delegation.

Tensions flared when Zelaya slipped back into Honduras two weeks ago. He has been trapped since then by troops surrounding the Brazilian embassy building as Micheletti has slapped emergency curbs on pro-Zelaya media and street protests. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Tuesday said Micheletti should give up power to end the crisis.

A group of 12 Lenca Indians supporting Zelaya sought asylum in the Guatemalan embassy on Tuesday, citing death threats and beatings from security forces. Activists plan a series of anti-coup protests in the next 24 hours. Some 200 people holding candles and blowing whistles marched on Tuesday night. "We are protesting peacefully, we want democracy," said Daniel Martinez, 51, at an earlier event near Brazil's embassy. He had head and leg wounds he said were from police clubs at a march last month where one protester died in serious clashes.

Talks are to center on the San Jose agreement drafted by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias when he mediated earlier in the crisis. The document calls for Zelaya's reinstatement and a unity government until scheduled November 29 elections. Zelaya said he was worried the OAS was no longer resolute in its support for reinstating him. "It seems to me that in the last few hours the Arias plan has been practically abandoned."

Micheletti wants Zelaya to stand trial and is resisting pressure to restore the leftist who is allied with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Zelaya was toppled after riling powerful conservatives who fear he wanted to extend his hold on power.
Diplomats have praised a change in attitude from Micheletti, who has welcomed back OAS officials he expelled last month and bowed to international pressure by agreeing to lift the curbs on media and social freedoms. "We are now very optimistic. There have been very significant advances from both sides," said OAS Special Adviser John Biehl who is currently in Honduras.

However, two media outlets that had their equipment taken by masked soldiers last week are still off the air and a ban on marches of more than 20 people is still in place, pending the formal lifting of the curbs.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Abuse Accusations Grow, Media Curbs Are Lifted, New Negotiations Start

Unless there is some big breakthrough in Honduras, I may not be posting often from now on, as both my readers and I, like Hondurans on the ground, are becoming weary of this protracted dispute. Only my hard-core Honduras watchers are still on board.

Had a rare evening out on Sunday, invited by a friend to a concert of Indian sitar and drum music with singing commemorating Gandhi’s life. It was rhythmic, repetitious, and relaxing.

Just heard from the folks at IHS, participants in my usual medical brigade, that they are scheduled to leave on Oct. 22 for La Mosquitia, the rural east, where I’ve never been, but may try going next year. I still hope to join the Esperanza area brigade again next Feb., assuming the country is peaceful by then.

El Nuevo Herald reports that South Florida’s conservative Republican Cuban congresspersons, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, traveled to Honduras to meet with members of the interim government. Other Republican congressmen have also traveled there, the Honduran officials being unable to come to the US because of visa cancellations. Honduras has never been the subject before of so much attention. When I was assigned to Honduras as a Peace Corps volunteer back in 2000, some folks asked me where it was actually located. Another article in El Nuevo Herald quotes Arias as criticizing the current Honduran constitution.

A regular reader pointed out a column in the Wall St. Journal speculating about anti-Semitism in the Zelaya/Chavez axis, especially with Chavez’ embrace of Ahmadinejad and Zelaya’s odd accusations of being assaulted by x-rays shot by Israeli commandos into the Brazilian Embassy. Hondurans are, in my experience, somewhat anti-Semitic, especially around Holy Week, but in a rather abstract and biblical way, since, if there are any Honduran Jews, I have never run across one. However, I have met Hondurans of Arab descent, especially shop owners in San Pedro Sula. In any case, charges of anti-Semitism, while perhaps a concern, seem peripheral right now to the Honduran political debate and a case of reaching for straws to condemn Zelaya and his associates.

A skeptical reader reacts to what he considers Zelaya’s pious agreement to accept the Arias accords: This is unadulterated bullshit! Zelaya is trying to give the impression that he is making a huge concession by agreeing to something that he had already accepted with the Arias proposals. Then the wolf shows his ear when he states that, of course, this is not something that forces the Honduran people not to have a Constitutional convention in the future. With this fancy footwork, how does he expect his opponents to trust him and to be willing to make an agreement with him when it is evident to the most naive person that he is going to do whatever it takes once he returns to power to get around the agreements to ape Chavez and become the de facto ruler of Honduras? It does not even require much imagination to deduce how he plans to go about it. While President, he will try to create a new political party that will nominate one of his henchmen to the presidency and, with his backing, he will have him elected in the coming elections. When this happens, Zelaya will become the power behind the throne. During his henchman’s presidential term, a referendum will be held asking the Honduran population to authorize a constitutional convention. After a favorable vote, this convention will be held to abolish presidential term limits. In the next Presidential election, Zelaya will be re-elected and will remain in power till death takes him away, turning Honduras into a new Venezuela. So, how can anyone expect Zelaya's opponents to voluntarily agree to his return to power? They will agree to negotiate to win time, but they will never agree to his return to power until the Arias proposal incorporates a plank that will prohibit him from starting his own political party and running his own presidential candidate in the coming elections. If this is not done, the possibility of a peaceful resolution of the crisis is nill, zilch, nada! What is now being negotiated, together with international guarantees is that Zelaya, once in power, would be forced to adhere to what is agree upon. The US and the conservative governments allied with it in Latin America are willing to return Zelaya to power, but only under conditions that ensure that he could not overturn the applecart and would be willing to support the negotiating positions of the de facto government. Since it is not sure that Zelaya will accede to having his wings clipped, a peaceful solution of the crisis is very much in doubt.

Here is a similar comment: Negotiations are in the offing about the implementation of the Arias mediation Proposal (AMP). What is at stake is that Micheletti wants assurances from the OAS that Zelaya is going to conduct honest transparent elections among the candidates that have already been nominated by the existing Honduran political parties and that power will be handed over to the winner next January 27 with no hanky panky. Zelaya in the meantime is willing to do all that with one small variation; he wants to be allowed to create a new political party which would be allowed to participate in the coming presidential elections and nominate a presidential candidate. Micheletti will not allow this modification of the election because he knows that Zelaya's presidential candidate will probably win and that Zelaya would probably be the power behind the throne a la Vladimir Putin and that the Zelayist administration would probably call for a new constitutional convention that would create the 17th Honduran Constitution eliminating presidential term limits and allowing Zelaya to take office for life, aping Chavez. Since the name of the game is control over Honduras’ political future, I do not believe that the negotiations will be easy or that both sides will reach a peaceful non-violent agreement that can be backed by the international community. Despite all the hullabaloo, the negotiations will probably break down and the Honduran crisis will have to be resolved through violent means. The most probable scenario is the continuation and intensification of public protests followed by an army revolt that could lead to a coup against the de facto government or simply the cessation of repression followed by anarchy and threats of lynching in the streets that would make all de facto government figures leave the country or request asylum in foreign embassies. Maybe the end will be as ironical as Micheletti and Zelaya swapping places between the Presidential Palace and the Brazilian Embassy! This will still drag out. Todavía hay tela por donde cortar! [There is still cloth left to be cut.]

Here’s a somewhat more optimistic view: It’s hard to be certain after all previous false starts, but I believe this post 9/29/09 negotiation will be the definitive one. The army high command, the legislators, and business circles seem to have accepted the principle of Zelaya's return, given the fact that he will have limited powers under the Arias proposal and that the army will be under the Electoral Tribunal's direct command. Everyone but Micheletti seems to have agreed to the general principle that the Arias proposals are the best way to return peace to the country but it will take some stiff negotiations to agree on the details that will guarantee that Zelaya will not use his return to power against his enemies or to run for a second term or create a new party that would run a presidential candidate that will count with his backing in the coming elections, that he will hold a honest and transparent election and hand over power to the victor next January. But as you know "the devil is in the details" and there are a lot of them to haggle and squabble over. Remember Winston Churchill's dictum that "Gentlemen do not fight about questions of principle. They fight over the way that principles are going to be applied!" So we are not out of the woods by a long shot and could even be dragged back to the middle of them. If Micheletti continues to be stubborn or Zelaya does not give the minimum guarantees to prove his bona fides that his opponents ask for, anything could happen, even a civil war. But I am more hopeful than ever that a negotiated settlement can be reached based on the Arias mediation proposals because both sides seem to have become convinced that they cannot force their opponents to submit without the use of violence and the possibility of a civil war, too high a price to pay, and that the Arias proposal will protect each side's fundamental interests. The sticking point in the negotiations will be whether Zelaya will be allowed to start a new political party and to publicly back a presidential candidate in the coming elections.

And, finally, this: Micheletti is playing hard to get. It's not enough that Z has agreed not to take up the Constitutional Convention until next year if he regains his office and that the agreement is going to be guaranteed by the OAS. What the heck else does he want? I believe that it could be three things; 1- A guarantee that the Army is going to be out of Z’s control when he hands over power. If that is going to happen one month before elections, M will not want to hand the presidency over till at after 10/29/09. 2- He wants ironclad assurances that Zelaya would not interfere with existing election arrangements and create a new party and nominate a new candidate for the presidency that could manage to win the elections with his backing. That is why he is proposing handing over power to Z after the elections, to make sure that they are carried out the way that the Honduran oligarchy has planned them and that an oligarchical representative will be the next Honduran president. 3- M would just like to minimize Z's duration at the helm to minimize the possibility that he could find a way to get his way and continue to dominate Honduran politics despite any agreement that he might make. He is a good bargainer; he wants to give as little as he can to have in maneuvering room. Since Zelaya and the OAS will probably not be able to give M the tight-clad guarantees that he wants, it is very possible that the game will go into extra innings and that he will try to remain in power until next January. I think the only way for Zelaya to return to power is through intensified public protests followed by a middle-rank army revolt. M may be a schmuck, but he is a very stubborn and determined one and he might not be very brilliant, but he has daring, courage and natural cunning. With those qualities and Zelaya’s indecision, Micheletti just might pull through and finally get his way anyway. If he does he is showing that he has the making of a true Machiavellian realist politician. Although I dislike him, every day that goes by I respect him more and more for the way he has resisted national and international pressure and has stood his ground.

So, maybe now, Micheletti is trying to hold on until Oct. 31? He's getting quite a bit of moral support from Republicans in the US Congress, but Hondurans cannot eat that! It's true that allowing Zelaya to field a candidate is very risky from Micheletti’s standpoint, because he is a demagogue and most Hondurans are, at best, only semi-literate. As readers of my book know, people there believe in chupacabras that come out at night to suck blood from livestock, that a statue of the Virgin Mary is alive and hears their prayers, and that a man having sex with an animal produces deformed offspring, either human or animal. Of course, some Americans are uninformed too, believing that the earth was created in 7 days, that Christ's image can appear on a piece of toast, and that Obama was born in Kenya. Americans had to suffer considerably before realizing that voting for GW Bush had been a mistake. But it's even worse in a country like Honduras. Hondurans are that much more desperate, uniformed, and willing to believe that a savior like Zelaya will deliver them from their many woes. When they realize that he has failed to do so, it will be too late to change course. But, Zelaya has awakened the hopes and aspirations of many poor Hondurans, so that even establishment politicians must pay attention to that sector from now on. Let’s hope that lesson has been learned, even if Zelaya is curbed, so that it is not back to the old politics as usual.

Honduras' Micheletti lifts media, social curbs
Monday, October 5, 2009 3:14 PM

TEGUCIGALPA - Honduras' de facto leader Roberto Micheletti lifted an emergency decree on Monday that had suspended some civil liberties and shut two media outlets loyal to ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Micheletti had come under international pressure to lift the emergency measures as the Organization of American States tries to negotiate an end to a crisis triggered when Zelaya was toppled in a June coup. Zelaya slipped back into the country two weeks ago and has taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy.

October 6, 2009
Honduran Security Forces Accused of Abuse

TEGUCIGALPA— Rosamaria Valeriano Flores was returning home from a visit to a public health clinic and found herself in a crowd of people dispersing from a demonstration in support of the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya. As she crossed the central square of the Honduran capital, a group of soldiers and police officers pushed her to the ground and beat her with their truncheons. She said the men kicked out most of her top teeth, broke her ribs and split open her head. “A policeman spit in my face and said, ‘You will die,’ ” she said, adding that the attack stopped when a police officer shouted at the men that they would kill her.

Ms. Valeriano, 39, was sitting in the office of a Tegucigalpa human rights group last week, speaking about the assault, which took place on Aug. 12. As she told her story, mumbling to hide her missing teeth, she pointed to a scar on her scalp and to her still-sore left ribs.

Since Mr. Zelaya was removed in a June 28 coup, security forces have tried to halt opposition with beatings and mass arrests, human rights groups say. Eleven people have been killed since the coup, according to the Committee for Families of the Disappeared and Detainees in Honduras, or Cofadeh. The number of violations and their intensity has increased since Mr. Zelaya secretly returned to Honduras two weeks ago, taking refuge at the Brazilian Embassy, human rights groups say.
The groups describe an atmosphere of growing impunity, one in which security forces act unhindered by legal constraints. Their free hand had been strengthened by an emergency decree allowing the police to detain anyone suspected of posing a threat. “In the 1980s, there were political assassinations, torture and disappearances,” said Bertha Oliva, Cofadeh’s general coordinator, in an interview last week, recalling the political repression of the country’s so-called dirty war. “They were selective and hidden. But now there is massive repression and defiance of the whole world. They do it in broad daylight, without any scruples, with nothing to stop them.”

Amid the crackdown, a delegation of foreign ministers from the Organization of American States is scheduled to arrive in the capital, Tegucigalpa, on Wednesday in an attempt to restart negotiations between representatives for Mr. Zelaya and Roberto Micheletti, the de facto president. In advance of the meeting, Mr. Micheletti lifted the decree Monday.

The abuses could have a chilling effect on presidential elections scheduled for Nov. 29. The de facto government and its supporters argue that the elections will close the chapter on the coup and its aftermath, but the United Nations, the United States and other governments have said that they will not recognize the vote if it is conducted under the current conditions. “Elections are a risk because people won’t vote,” said Javier Acevedo, a lawyer with the Center for Research and the Promotion of Human Rights in Tegucigalpa. “The soldiers and police at the polls will be the same ones as those who have been carrying out the repression.”

Investigators from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited in August, and found a pattern of disproportionate force, arbitrary detentions and control of information. The group asked the de facto government to provide protective measures for dozens of politicians, union leaders, teachers, human rights workers and journalists who say they have been followed and threatened.

The de facto government responded that strong measures were needed against Mr. Zelaya’s supporters, whom they described as vandals, a point backed up by government television advertisements showing burning buses and street barricades. Some of the demonstrations have turned violent as some of Mr. Zelaya’s supporters have smashed storefronts and burned tires at street barricades. The government says that three people have been killed since the coup.

Mr. Micheletti has said the investigators from the Inter-American Commission were biased, noting that its president, Luz Patricia Mejía, is Venezuelan. Much of Honduras’s political and economic elite feared that Mr. Zelaya was trying to copy Venezuela’s brand of socialism as he moved toward an alliance with that nation’s president, Hugo Chávez. The Honduran government’s human rights institutions have failed to respond to the violations with any vigor, advocates say.
The human rights prosecutor, Sandra Ponce, is on vacation, according to news reports. Ramón Custodio, the government human rights commissioner who fought repression in the 1980s, has generally supported the coup, although he has criticized some actions of the de facto government. Groups that were vulnerable to human rights abuses before the coup face even more risk now. Since the coup, for example, there have been six murders of gay men or transvestites, according to gay rights groups. Until 2008, the average number of such killings each year was three to six.

The day after Mr. Zelaya returned, the police broke up a demonstration by his supporters outside the Brazilian Embassy with tear gas. As people were fleeing, security forces tear-gassed the Cofadeh office, just blocks away. The action, Ms. Oliva believes, was aimed at preventing Cofadeh lawyers from intervening by taking testimony or seeking the release of people who were detained.

Since Mr. Zelaya’s return, security forces also have been rumbling through poor neighborhoods that are the base of his support. “They are going into neighborhoods in a way to intimidate people,” said Mr. Acevedo, the lawyer. In that time, the center has documented an increasing level of violence. Investigators have seen more than two dozen people with bullet wounds in hospitals, and some detainees have had their hands broken and have been burned with cigarettes, he said. While the police and soldiers are looking for the activists who have been organizing resistance, the sweep seems to pick up anyone who gets in their way.

Yulian Lobo said her husband was arrested in the neighborhood of Villa Olímpica and accused of having a grenade. “It came out of nowhere,” she said, adding that her husband, a driver, had not been to pro-Zelaya marches. Lesbia Marisol Flores, 38, is a resistance activist, but when the police beat her up, she was waiting at a bus stop after attending the wake of a 24-year-old woman who died after she was tear-gassed outside the Brazilian Embassy on Sept. 22.“There were eight policemen and their faces were all covered,” she said, adding that they had selected her at random from the group at the bus stop. “There was no motive. It is their hobby now.”