Sunday, December 13, 2009

Negotiating Zelaya’s Departure

Hear, hear, my book now has 18 reviews on, 16 five-star and 2 four-star. Not bad. I’m aiming for at least 20, just in case any fan of the book should be reading this and would like to post another review.

From our local Spanish-language press comes news that a Venezuelan university student was killed in a street protest, evoking none of the international outcry that accompanied the few killings of demonstrators in Honduras over the last several months, not to belittle those killings, but to put them in perspective. And Hugo Chavez, photographed with the presidents of Paraguay and Brazil at ALBA, a meeting of South American presidents, accused Colombia and the US of planning aggression against other nations from US military bases located in Colombia. Chavez also chided the presidents of Colombia and Peru for not rejecting the election of Porfirio Lobo in Honduras. However, according to the article below, Peru joined Brazil in criticizing attempts to restrict Zelaya if he leaves the country. The Miami Herald’s Spanish edition also reports a rumor that Fidel Castro himself may appear at the ALBA meeting.

Our erstwhile Latin American commentator is back: As was to be expected, Obama's about-face will be tried to be used by the Alba group to set off a new wave of anti-Americanism in the continent. Alba wants to get Zelaya out of the Brazilian embassy to enthrone him as a martyr of US imperialism and reduce Obama's prestige in Latin America. The US is now not only being criticized for the about-face, but also being openly accused of plotting his overthrow. The effort will be made to turn the Zelaya affair into an anti-American cause celebre like the 1954 CIA invasion of Venezuela. The fact that there is no proof of US involvement in the original coup will be explained away by saying that the CIA did a much better job covering up its tracks. The new Latin American left knows how to counterpunch and will seek to maximize the adverse propaganda value of Zelaya's non-return to power.

From the articles below, it appears that the task now is less one of restoring Zelaya to office, but, rather, of getting him out of the Brazilian Embassy and then, presumably, out of the country safely, with no arrest or judicial procedure and with his dignity intact, while at the same time maintaining order and making sure he doesn’t try to commandeer his followers or the army to return him to the presidency by force. A helicopter hovering over the Brazilian Embassy, putting down a ladder might be the safest method, but whether a helicopter could make it across the border, I don’t know. What is the usual travel distance and altitude for a helicopter? Teguc is ringed by mountains and mountains exist throughout the country. Just a speculation, no crazier than a blocked runway back in July or sneaking across the border in a closed vehicle; stranger things have happened during this whole saga. I just hope he makes it in one piece and without more bloodshed.

Lobo and Zelaya may soon meet, perhaps in the Dominican Republic, according to that country’s president, Leonel Fernandez. Maybe that will be Zelaya's destination whne he leaves Honduras. Interestingly enough, I met Fernandez at a campaign rally in the DR in 1996, when I was there as an election observer. He won the presidency for the first time then and was allowed to run again because his terms were not consecutive, an option still available, I believe, to Zelaya under the current Honduran constitution, so look for Zelaya’s comeback in the future.
Zelaya gets green light to leave Honduras
Associated Press
Saturday, December 12, 2009

TEGUCIGALPA-- The interim government of Honduras says it would allow ousted President Manuel Zelaya to seek asylum outside Central America. The announcement appears to seek a compromise with Zelaya allowing him to emerge from the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa without fear of arrest on the charges of treason and abuse of power that led to his June ouster. He took refuge there after sneaking back into Honduras Sept. 21.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman says Honduras will grant Zelaya safe passage to any country that offers him asylum outside Central America. Milton Mateo said Saturday the decision comes from the "very highest government level." Zelaya representative Rasel Tome said only that Zelaya does not plan to leave Honduras this weekend.
Brazil, Peru condemn Honduran limits on Zelaya
Saturday, December 12, 2009

SAO PAULO -- Brazil and Peru on Saturday condemned the refusal by the de facto government of Honduras to allow ousted President Manuel Zelaya to leave the country unless he drops his demand to be reinstated. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Peruvian President Alan Garcia criticized the de facto government's stance in a joint statement issued by Brazil's Ministry of Foreign Relations. Zelaya, deposed in a June 28 coup, has taken refuge in Brazil's embassy in the Honduran capital. "The presidents strongly condemn the unacceptable refusal by Honduras' de facto government's officials, totally defying the international rights, to allow the departure of constitutional president Jose Manuel Zelaya to Mexico," the statement said.

Zelaya said on Thursday the de facto government would allow him to leave the country only if he signs a letter dropping his demand to be reinstated as president. His term in office was scheduled to end on January 27.

Soldiers grabbed Zelaya from his home in June and threw him out of the country in his pajamas, sparking Central America's worst political crisis since the Cold War. He later sneaked back into Honduras to take refuge in the Brazilian Embassy and conduct a campaign for his return to power.

Honduran voters chose a new president, Porfirio Lobo, in elections on November 29, but many countries including regional power Brazil have yet to recognize the vote. Lobo is due to take power in January. Zelaya had planned to leave his refuge in the Brazilian Embassy on Wednesday for Mexico but the trip was aborted because of disagreement over whether he would accept political asylum.

The administration in power since Zelaya was ousted wants Zelaya to take political asylum in another country, which would restrict his political activities. However, Zelaya has rejected asylum in favor of a looser status that would allow him to campaign fully for his return. The de facto government's foreign minister Carlos Lopez said Zelaya should respect a decision by the Honduran Congress last week that he not return to office.
DomRep: Ousted Honduras leader, successor to meet
Associated Press
Friday, December 11, 2009

TEGUCIGALPA--The leader of the Dominican Republic said Friday that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya will meet with his elected successor next week in his Caribbean nation. There was no indication, however, that a deal for allowing such a meeting had been reached with the interim government that replaced Zelaya after a coup June 28.

Dominican President Leonel Fernandez told reporters he expected Zelaya and President-elect Porfirio Lobo to meet Monday in Santo Domingo to talk about ways for resolving the political crisis that has gripped Honduras since Zelaya was deposed. "As of Sunday and Monday, we will have both figures of the Honduran political world in the Dominican Republic," Fernandez said, adding that Zelaya would arrive on Sunday and Lobo on Monday morning.

Fernandez told reporters he expected to meet with both men separately and then bring them together for discussions.

But in Honduras' capital, information minister Rene Zepeda said the interim government had not received a petition from Zelaya or from officials in the Dominican Republic asking that Zelaya be granted safe passage to leave the country.
Honduran officials and Zelaya have been at odds this week on terms of a deal that would let him emerge from the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa without fear of arrest on the charges of treason and abuse of power that led to his ouster. He has taken refuge in the embassy since sneaking back into Honduras on Sept. 21. The government insists he must concede he is no longer president, although his term runs to Jan. 27. Zelaya says he won't do that. Zelaya also did not confirm that a meeting is set with Lobo. He told The Associated Press only that he was grateful to Fernandez for seeking to arrange a meeting.

"We are thankful for President Fernandez's gesture because it shows his intention to solve the Honduran crisis in an effort to benefit Central America. We are analyzing his proposal and we are in communication with President Fernandez," Zelaya said.
There was no immediate comment from Lobo, who won the Nov. 29 presidential election that Honduras had scheduled before Zelaya was removed from office and sent out of the country at gunpoint. Lobo, who says he wants to start a national reconciliation process once he takes office, said earlier this week that he supports granting amnesty both to Zelaya and to all of those involved in the coup. His options are limited, though. Even after he becomes president he won't have the power to give Zelaya amnesty from prosecution. That power belongs to the same Congress that voted 111-14 early month against restoring Zelaya to office to serve out his term.

Before Fernandez's announcement, Zelaya said he would leave the Brazilian Embassy by the end of his presidential term Jan. 27. Zelaya said in the telephone interview with Globo TV that he wanted to leave soon but did not say where he might go. Mexico's government sought this week to negotiate safe passage for him, but that effort stalled in the dispute over whether Zelaya would agree to leave Honduras as an ordinary citizen and not the president.

Francisco Catundo, the top-ranking Brazilian official at the embassy, told Globo TV that Zelaya must leave by Jan. 27. But later in the day, Marco Aurelio Garcia, chief international adviser to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said there is no time limit. "There is no problem with (Zelaya staying) at the Brazilian Embassy," Garcia told reporters in Peru, where Silva was making an official visit.

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