Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sudan Peace in Peril, Zelaya Spends Xmas in Embassy, Surprise Blog Reach

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.

While distant from Honduras, the main subject of this blog, nonetheless Sudan—at least the south— is also close to my heart. I was on a mission to southern Sudan in 2006 and wrote an article about it (America, Oct. 1, 2007). In my three weeks there, although I don’t speak Arabic, I got a very strong impression that southerners did not want to remain connected with the north in 2010, when a referendum on their future status would be conducted. This was part of the peace accords signed between the northern Khartoum government (the same folks responsible for fighting in Darfur) and southern rebels. My travel documents for the south were issued by the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), not Khartoum. Now the PLA has walked out of a parliamentary session because the Khartoum government’s efforts to wiggle out of the referendum commitment.

Obviously, the north doesn’t want to give up the oil-rich south. I foresaw that happening and now fear that all the progress made in the south—the return of refugees from neighboring countries; the building of homes, schools, and hospitals; the removal of landmines; and the revival of agriculture will be destroyed and civilians killed once again. People in the south are mostly black, not Arabic; most are not Muslim and those who are do not adhere to Sharia law; and nearly all desperately want to be free of the arbitrary dictates of the Khartoum government. Sounds like Khartoum might be willing to continue to allow the south some autonomy, but wants to jettison the promise to allow a referendum, knowing the referendum would go overwhelmingly in favor of secession. I’m very sad about this development, as I don’t see the southern rebels giving in to this double-cross without a fight after so many years of patient and peaceful waiting.

Innocently, I had imagined this blog with few regular readers. I’m not keeping track, but doubt it’s more than 20 or 30, maybe even less. So I never dreamed that Google had my blog address in its sights. However, I have found out otherwise. Last time, I had posted material about a pro-Zelaya supporter and labor activist whose life had been threatened in very specific ways, quite credible and emblematic. I somehow thought this was a report from a human rights organization. However, it turns out it was a confidential report and, only hours after my posting, someone searching for information on the person involved Googled her name and was directed to my blog. He then saw that I had posted part of the report. Google must have acted practically instantaneously, which only shows the power and peril of the Internet, no secrets from Big Brother Google! The concerned reader immediately informed me and warned that my posting might further endanger the woman involved, so I removed it right away. I’m still astounded that Google knows about my blog and surveys it so regularly that it was able to pluck that woman’s name right out of the blog, just as soon as it was posted. Here I thought I was communicating with only a select few readers; instead, it was with the whole world! If the woman’s situation ever gets resolved, I may tell you more about her later.

Poor Zelaya, seems as though he and his family celebrated Christmas inside the Brazilian Embassy with no firm end date in sight for his stay there. Christmas is a really huge holiday in Honduras, so is New Year’s, with everything shut down between, even more than in the US, so I wouldn’t expect any movement until after New Year’s, at the earliest.

Honduras' Zelaya stuck in embassy for Christmas
By Gustavo Palencia
Wednesday, December 23, 2009

TEGUCIGALPA- Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya will spend Christmas with his family stuck inside the soldier-ringed Brazilian Embassy where he has been holed up for months after being toppled in a June coup. The more than 100 troops surrounding the diplomatic compound in Tegucigalpa will allow Zelaya's relatives to bring him a Christmas meal of traditional dishes from his native Olancho province, where he made his name as a logger and rancher. "For Christmas, the army has told me they will let my mother and my children in and we will be here saying a prayer for the Honduran people," Zelaya told Reuters in a phone interview from the embassy complex where he has spent the last three months.

Zelaya, who was toppled on June 28 when soldiers roused him from bed and flew him to exile, has been mired in political limbo since he snuck back into Honduras in September. His future is unclear since Honduras elected a new president in November. The de facto government appointed after the coup and the military strictly control who and what is allowed inside the embassy sheltering Zelaya, his wife and a diminishing band of supporters. No Christmas tree, decorations or festive lights have been brought in to brighten their spirits for the holiday season. "No family would want to go through what we are going through unless they were perverse, cruel or heartless," Zelaya said. His children will likely bring him a meal of pork and a local variety of tamales -- corn cakes wrapped in banana leaves -- accompanied by a traditional wine made in Olancho from a tropical palm tree called coyol, an aide said.

Zelaya was ousted after he angered business leaders and more conservative members of his party by moving closer to Venezuela's firebrand leftist president, Hugo Chavez. His critics accused him of seeking to change the constitution to extend his term in office, which was to end in January, and the Supreme Court and Congress ordered his ouster.

In November, Honduras elected opposition leader Porfirio Lobo as president in a vote that some European and Latin American countries refused to recognize as it had been organized by an internationally shunned de facto government. The United States, which tried and failed to push for a negotiated settlement between Zelaya and the de facto leaders, said the election was an important step toward ending the crisis.

Lobo, who will be sworn in as president on January 27, has said he would extend a vague political amnesty to Zelaya and everyone involved in the coup without giving specifics on how Zelaya will be allowed to leave the embassy. The Honduran Congress voted against Zelaya's return to office and talks this month to give him asylum in Mexico broke down.

No comments: