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.
This came in from a blog correspondent before the accord had been signed: MICHELETTI IS SIMPLY KEEPING UP APPEARANCES OF NEGOTIATIONS TO GAIN TIME AND AVOID WORSE SANCTIONS AND GET CLOSER TO THE SCHEDULED ELECTIONS. HE DOES NOT INTEND TO REINSTATE ZELAYA AFTER OCTOBER 29, HE INTENDS TO GO FOR BROKE AND SHOOT THE MOON. AFTER THE ELECTION AND THE TURNING OVER OF POWER TO THE NEXT ADMINISTRATION, HE EXPECTS BOTH THE OAS, THE UN, FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS, AND THE HONDURAN SUPPORTERS OF ZELAYA TO GIVE UP AND RESIGN THEMSELVES TO THE FAIT ACCOMPLI.
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
By ELISABETH MALKIN, NY Times
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.