Thursday, July 30, 2009

Honduras and Latin America

I think Latin America should solve its own problems whenever possible. Indeed, you will find few Latin Americanists who think otherwise. That said, such efforts should be based on realistic assumptions. For that reason, Mark Weisbrot makes no sense. He believes the Arias talks should be rejected, and that an undefined Latin American alternative should take its place.

He does not mention that the OAS, led by a Chilean who has often been criticized by the U.S. government as too leftist, tried and failed first, before the Arias effort began.

But let's set that inconvenient fact aside, and ask: who would organize the Latin American response? Wiesbrot suggests UNASUR, which as he points out helped to defuse a serious Bolivian conflict. But UNASUR is a South American organization, which has nothing to do with Central America. Even if it tried, does anyone think that any South American leader has any leverage in Honduras? Even Hugo Chávez, the most interested South American president, has offered no practical solution.

The even more essential point that Weisbrot ignores is that you cannot just say "restore Zelaya" and have it happen. He wants Washington out. Fine. But the coup government will tell every Latin American delegation the same as it said to the OAS--butt out. Then what will happen?

9 comments:

Anonymous,  9:34 PM  

Among the many things this crisis made clear is how little influence the Brazilians have outside their immediate neighborhood. Supposedly they are a Rising Power but they have zero leverage over tiny Honduras.

Which makes sense. For A to have power over B, A should be able to give or take away something B wants. What can Brazil do?

All this talk about how the US is no longer important was always nonsense but the issue of the visas shows just how silly it was. Canceling 4 visas was seen as a small measure of pressure. Imagine if Venezuela had decided to cancel visas to their country? Or Brazil? Who could possibly care?

Anonymous,  10:05 PM  

It was not a coup. If by now you have not read the Honduras's Constitution, you better say noting. Zelaya had broken the law and the Constitution is clear, he was automaticaly out of his job.

Justin Delacour 1:30 AM  

He does not mention that the OAS, led by a Chilean who has often been criticized by the U.S. government as too leftist

Your critique of Weisbrot's argument has some validity on mere realist grounds, but I do have one minor quibble. How many official U.S statements could you point us to in which the U.S. government has specifically criticized Insulza for being too leftist? I have no doubt that that is the view of much of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, but I've yet to see a U.S. official verbalize the point. Perhaps there are some quotes like that out there, but to say that U.S. officials "often" accuse Insulza of being too leftist is inaccurate.

Justin Delacour 2:25 AM  

Wiesbrot suggests UNASUR, which as he points out helped to defuse a serious Bolivian conflict.

After reading Weisbrot's points, I have another quibble with Greg's post, and this one is not so minor. Although I agree with Greg that a solution to the Honduran crisis is still going to require U.S. support, Greg shouldn't distort other people's arguments for rhetorical effect. Weisbrot never suggests that UNASUR will solve the Honduran crisis. He points to UNASUR's handling of the Bolivian crisis as an example in which Latin Americans solved a regional problem independently of the United States. He also points to the Rio Group as having helped resolve last year's dispute between Colombia, on the one hand, and Ecuador and Venezuela, on the other (and the Rio Group happens to include all Central American states). To be sure, Greg is correct that Weisbrot's proposed Latin American solution is short on specifics, but Greg needs to read a little more carefully to avoid distorting people's points.

Slave Revolt,  7:48 AM  

Greg would be a more compelling analyist if he questioned with vigor the attitudinal and conceptual framework of the US academy and it's intelligencia. Idols of the tribe.

More, he makes catAgoricL errors, for example claiming that the South American organization has no existing relationships through which to broker peace and justice in his matter.

Airies offered some blatantly undemocratic conditions that worked legitimize the coup and chain the hands of the victims of this travesty. The US and Arias look really bad right now. They just helped rape a woman, and they have the most armed and savage army of thugs on the block--you don't want to tell them that to there face because of fear.

Giordano has interesting information about the coup military ramping up the repression--totally blacked out from the corrupt corporate media.

leftside 12:37 PM  

"Weisbrot makes no sense"

A little harsh, no? All Weisbrot said is what should be obvious at this point. The US is not fully committed to the reinstatement of Zelaya. There are divided sentiments within the Administration and this lukewarm minimalist policy is the result.

Weisbrot acknowledges the reality that the US holds the most cards and should use them. He's been calling for this all along. But at this point (particularly now given an "official" NO response from the golpistas), it is time for Zelaya and the international community to stop hoping for the US and Arias to save the day and time to start looking elsewhere. The obvious place is within the existing LatAm institutions.

Does Weisbrot offer a perfect and precise solution - of course not. It does not exist. We are dealing with an intransigent coup force backed by a military force and repression.

This Arias solution may have had some merits, but in the final analysis, has to be seen as a waste of time and diversion from other possible actions. Everyone was told to sit on their thumbs and wait for the golpistas to come around to the position that they were wrong. The Arias disucssions only had a chance if pressure was ratcheted up concurrently - inside and outside the country. Instead, the issue drifted off the headlines and into oblivion - just as some in Washington had hoped.

Justin Delacour 3:05 PM  

The Arias disucssions only had a chance if pressure was ratcheted up concurrently - inside and outside the country.

While most of what Weisbrot says is true, I do think he slightly misreads the situation. I think the U.S. Administration does want a restoration of Zelaya, but on terms that represent a form of appeasement that carries real dangers. Notice how the Administration only gradually turns up the heat on the coup government when they could do a lot more if they wanted to. Basically what they're doing is trying to force Micheletti back to the table without tipping the balance of power too much in Zelaya's favor. That way they seek to force the kind of compromise that brings a weakened Zelaya back to power but really sends out the wrong signal that coups against leftists will be treated with kid gloves. Very dangerous.

Nevertheless, I don't think it would be correct to say that the Administration doesn't want Zelaya restored. If the coup government is able to hold out, the Administration knows it will be blamed (and rightly so). So I don't really think that's in the Administration's interest either.

Latin America could exert more pressure if, say, the Rio Group were to issue a statement censuring the United States for not doing what it could to resolve the crisis, but I don't really see much else that the Rio Group could do in the immediate term. Brazil alone might be able to have some impact if Lula would publicly criticize the United States for not doing enough, but the United States remains the major player here because of its power in Central America.

leftside 4:28 PM  

While most of what Weisbrot says is true, I do think he slightly misreads the situation. I think the U.S. Administration does want a restoration of Zelaya, but on terms...

Justin, where does Weisbrot say the US does not want a restoration of Zelaya? I think his language has consistently recognized the nuance in play here. He talks about "mixed messages," "conflicting interests," etc. I think he's on the same page as you - identifying a muddled approach that seeks to weaken Zelaya (and other ALBAists) while claiming the moral high ground at the same time.

rozydesouza 6:59 AM  

good one ...thanks for sahring...


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