Sunday, November 1, 2009

Unhappy Halloween, Happy All Saints Day

Well, it did rain on Halloween night, so only a few little ghosts and goblins came by under their dripping umbrellas. I’m left with a hoard of candy which I dare not eat. I was planning to sell my book at the nearby farmers’ market, Eastern Market, today, but it’s still raining and I don’t want my books to get wet, not to mention that few shoppers will be out and about. I was going to set out a bowl of candy at my table. Let’s hope it’s sunny next weekend so I can try again. Later this afternoon, I must attend an adoption agency meeting for a board on which I serve.

The gentleman who read my book on tape for Recordings for the Blind pointed out that I had made a mistake by designating Nov. 1 as All Souls Day—the Day of the Dead. In fact, Nov. 1 is All Saints Day and Nov. 2 is All Souls Day, something I have corrected in the 3rd and final printing of my book.

An Eastern Market vendor from Pennsylvania whom I have befriended tells me that an older couple at his church had a terrible experience in the Peace Corps (not in Honduras) and had to quit. I certainly know that adverse events can happen—they did happen to me—and that sometimes quitting is the only option. On the other hand, volunteers need to have considerable grit and flexibility and be prepared to confront many challenges, something I don’t gloss over.

Did I mention that my book has been sold four times on Kindle, Amazon’s electronic reader? My total revenue share for that has been $12, since Kindle rightly charges less than for a physical book. The whole idea of an electronic book is kind of fascinating. Instead of accumulating books and having to trash them or give them away, a reader can just zap them when finished. I’m still partial to having an actual book in my hands and being able to go back and refer to it. I don’t know if Kindle books can be stored electronically and I doubt that they cannot be passed on from one Kindle reader to another.

I promised a Va. Tech student group (part of a consortium of 25 Virginia public universities and colleges) called Students Helping Honduras ( that I would alert my readers to their activities, which include building projects involving helping dig ponds and build houses and schools. Many Virginia college students spend vacations on these projects. My readers may donate online or, if Virginia college students, join in the actual work. While I am partial to Peace Corps service, I realize that not everyone can donate 2+ years of their life to humanitarian causes, so something like this is also very helpful and beneficial to both sides.

One of my correspondents has this to say in response to the last blog: The Micheletti people, unhappy to be portrayed as having succumbed to U.S. pressure, indicate that they’ll move at their own pace, that no one will dictate any timetable, etc. Micheletti went out of his way to ridicule Hillary and to avoid the impression that her canned telephone statement influenced his decision.

Wow, I also just got a rather long message from another loyal reader, reacting to yesterday’s Washington Post editorial. I should just turn this blog over to him. He is right that Zelaya is in danger of being assassinated, as I mentioned before. Murders are very common and usually go unsolved in Honduras. The son of Ricardo Maduro, who won the presidency when I was a Peace Corps volunteer, had been murdered before Maduro took office. Micheletti’s nephew and a prominent military officer were killed just a few days ago. So, yes, it could easily happen to Zelaya and he knows it.

Here’s the reader’s commentary: I agree with the editorial's analysis and its evaluation of the whole situation as a foreign policy triumph for the Obama administration because it has managed to uphold democracy, but disagree that is has managed to neutralize the pro-Chavez movement in Honduras. In fact, I believe the jury is still out on the final result and that it’s a bit early to place a laurel wreath around Hillary's brow. That is why I quoted Yogi Berra as saying, "The game is not over until the game is over!"

To be more precise, I believe that Honduran demagogic left has come out strengthened as a result of this crisis and that it has a good chance of seizing power in Honduras in the near future. This is so because, even within the restrictions of the Arias mediation, Zelaya can try to do an end run during the coming election in order to get his way,

As I told you before, from now to election time, depending on Honduras' election regulations, he might be able to start a new political party and nominate his own candidates for president and congressmen. Or, if this is not possible, he might make an agreement with a minute leftist party without any real chance of winning the election to allow his supporters to infiltrate it and be nominated as its candidates for President, congressmen, governors mayors and aldermen in the coming elections.

Once this is done, he could ask all his supporters to vote for the candidates of X party and, given Zelaya's popularity, it just may win the coming elections and bring a pro-Zelaya President, congressmen, and other officials to office. If he is able to do this, the newly elected congress, according to the Honduran constitution, could call for a constitutional convention which Zelaya's political machinery could win again and allow him to write a new constitution for Honduras without presidential term limits, which could be ratified by referendum by the Honduran population.

After that Zelaya could, in theory, be reelected for life (like Napoleon when he was named First Consul of the French Republic). All that would escape his grasp would now be to be named Emperor, but then again he might not want this because it is no longer fashionable. He might just settle to be dictator for life like Porfirio Diaz in Mexico before he was toppled by the Mexican Revolution, or as Fidel Castro and Chavez at present.

This might sound like pie in the sky, but if this guy, with his present-day popularity, manages to put together a political machine in one month's time and bring his supporters to power, all else follows like a column of falling dominos.

This stupid oligarchy with its counterproductive policies have made him into a political martyr and idol and the most influential politician in Honduras's future. One way or the other, given his popularity, if he is allowed to live, he will be the future populist ruler of Honduras and, as such, he represents a mortal danger for the retrograde Honduran oligarchy.

So what is going to happen to him is that, once his term ends, the oligarchy will try to kill him, imprison him, or chase him out of the country. But even if he is in jail or exiled, the Honduran oligarchy will not rest until they manage to eventually kill him because, while he is alive, he will represent a huge threat to their interests. The result will be a race against time for both factions. Zelaya will be trying to become president of Honduras before the oligarchy can murder him and the oligarchy will be trying to do the opposite.

Even if he manages to someday become the President of Honduras, this does not mean that the oligarchy will quit trying to murder him. On the contrary, since the threat to their interests has grown, the oligarchy will redouble its efforts to murder him before he passes laws that unfavorably affect their interests. But the possibility of reaching this goal will be much smaller because Fidel Castro will put a personal bodyguard around him to protect his life and will provide Cuban counselors to purge the Honduran security forces and the armed forces command to try to protect him from a coup d'etat and assassination attempts. The memory of Salvador Allende's overthrow is quite fresh in the Cuban government's mind.

The moment to kill him, imprison, or exile him is once he hands over power to the next administration and the Honduran oligarchy knows it and is preparing its plans to carry it out. But his supporters know it too and will take active measures to protect him. So the crisis is not over, I think it has just been postponed and the country is more in danger of going into a civil war now than before!

Also, do not expect Zelaya to return to the presidency any time soon. His opponents in the Supreme Court and Congress want to shorten his stay in power as much as they can to stop him from rocking the boat. So you can expect them to drag their feet as much as they can with whatever pretext they can think up. If this goes on long enough, it could set off violent public protests and could even result in bloodshed or in the beginning of a civil war.

In my opinion, this agreement, instead of reducing tensions, aggravates them, and creates an explosive atmosphere similar to the one that existed in Spain in July of 1936. Instead of being optimistic, I fear the worst. Thomas Shannon and Dan Restrepo have their work cut out for them and should not be yanked out of Honduras in the immediate future. They should remain there to expedite Zelaya's return to office and to dampen the increase in political tensions.

Yep, Yogi was right no game is over till it is over and, IMHO this game has only reached the third or fourth inning!

Here is my reply to him: You may well be right, but I hope you are wrong. Still, Fidel Castro's Machiavellian mind must be working overtime on this problem. I don't think Chavez or Zelaya are too bright, but Castro certainly is and probably his intellectual faculties have not dimmed. He has full-time to think about these matters, whereas the Obama administration is pulled in many directions and does not consider Honduras a priority.

Ortega has just pulled off in Nicaragau what Zelaya was trying to do, run for another term, after winning last time with only 33% of the vote. He had the most votes then, as per the Nicaraguan constitution, and the opposition fought among themselves and split the remaining vote. So, they got what they deserved. They seem not to have learned anything from getting together with UNO behind Violeta in 1990 (I was there as an election observer then). Furthermore, Ortega has made an alliance with the followers of disgraced president Arnoldo Aleman, who may still be enjoying a cushy house arrest at his ranch outside Managua. If it's like the 1980s, most Nicaraguans do not want the Sandinistas, but they cannot get their act together to oppose him. That he got back into office is a tribute to his tenacity and his hold on his own loyal followers.

So, I have no great expectations for Honduras, whose politicians are mostly inept and corrupt and whose populace is uneducated and easily swayed. If the American electorate, supposedly better educated and better informed, could vote for GW Bush in 2004 (2000 doesn't count because he didn't win that one), can we expect any better from Honduran voters who are ripe for a demagogic leader?


Joe Maina said...

Hi Barbara;

I wasn't able to get an eBook version of "Triumph & Hope" because I have a Sony PRS-700 instead of the Kindle. Instead I asked our town library to buy the book and have just finished it. Think you've done a great job explaining the Peace Corp efforts in Honduras and feel kudos are in order because you didn't pull any punches. Yes, it isn't always pretty but the volunteers' efforts are positive and helping those who need it most.

Hope the political situation gets squared away soon.

Joe Maina

Barbara Joe said...

Joe, Thanks for letting me know. Glad you were able to read the book. Could you please tell me the town or city where your library is located to add it to a list I'm giving to the DC public library? It already has been given 2 copies of my book that have yet to appear in the catalogue or on the shelves. I'd like to try to move that process along. You may answer me at my Yahoo address, shown under the blog header, if you prefer. Gracias, Barbara