Saturday, July 11, 2009

Honduras: the waiting game

There is no doubt that delay benefits the coup government, and so the first round of "dialogue" goes to Micheletti. Here is a copy of Oscar Arias' comments to the press, composed largely of platitudes. Key sentence: "In the following days we will announce the date of our next encounter." So we actually have to wait to hear the date before then waiting for the actual date. Tick tock, tick tock.

At this point, though, there is nothing Zelaya can do. The United States doesn't want to provoke conflict, so will not be using any stick anytime soon. The big question is what happens if Micheletti never backs down, which then eventually prompts Zelaya to try something else.


votetheday 12:13 PM  

What is your opinion on the situation in Honduras? Give your vote either for or against Zelaya -

Doug 1:04 PM  

Greg -
If Micheletti never backs down, I worry that the economy will go south fast. Even if the US softens and re-allows some aid, Chavez never will and the oil situation will get very bad.

Nell 2:01 PM  

The United States doesn't want to provoke conflict, so will not be using any stick anytime soon.

What, a conflict with the little rightist pro-coup caucus in the U.S. Congress?

Not using the 'stick' of a further aid cutoff provokes a conflict with our own laws, specifically the Foreign Assistance Act.

It also provokes a conflict with the stated commitment to the return of Zelaya to office.

Could you clarify what conflict you think the Obama administration wants to avoid?

The longer this drags out with Micheletti completely intransigent and failing to negotiate in good faith, the more it looks as if the Obama administration's not really very commited to restoring Zelaya. I'm all for the way they've worked through regional bodies and actors and avoided traditional 'bigfooting', but if they sincerely want to see the November elections conducted in any kind of normal atmosphere, then pressure needs to be exerted by all the OAS countries with pressure to exert.

Has the trade seal-off by Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua been renewed?

Nell 2:04 PM  

If the U.S. has no intentions of following through with any further aid restrictions, then in your assessment the State Dept. announcement of a few days ago that all the aid (beyond that already suspended) was under review was so much hot air?

Greg Weeks 2:04 PM  

It wants to avoid people dying.

Greg Weeks 2:08 PM  

I can't predict what the administration will do in the future, but they will do nothing until negotiations play out. If Micheletti digs in and the administration's position does not change, then it was hot air. My own opinion is that they want to find some middle ground, so will be annoyed if Micheletti refuses to compromise (ditto with Zelaya). But that is just speculation.

Nell 3:28 PM  

They want to avoid people dying.

Can you explain how failing to exert financial and legal pressure on the coup government to negotiate for real helps avoid people dying?

It seems to me there is every incentive for the U.S. to increase the pressure where they can, so that Zelaya and the popular movement that is the real base for the restoration of legal, elected government are not pushed into confrontations with the coup government that will get more people killed. (Zelaya is not the only or even the main actor here; the push for constitutional reform is bigger than him, and about much more than his political future.)

People are already being disappeared, very likely being abused in captivity. Isis Murillo's father, an anti-logging activist, was abducted ('arrested') yesterday by men in plainclothes, after giving a press interview in which he recounted the shootings at the airport and held Billy Joya responsible.

It is not at all clear whether the mayor of San Pedro Sula is in hiding or being held by the coup government's police or the military.

There have been hundreds of people arrested that we know of in and near Tegucigalpa; it's much harder to get information about corresponding arrests in the countryside and smaller cities.

The U.S. government and State Department sitting back and twiddling its thumbs while a charade of 'negotiations' happens does not protect the lives of any Hondurans; it increases the likelihood of physical conflict.

Gabriel,  3:37 PM  

Good points Greg.

I still think the best solution is to hold early elections and allow the new government to assume ASAP. Even if Zelaya returns, what can he possibly return to?

Anonymous,  11:51 PM  

Well, I think the US will begin to ratchet up the pressures on Honduras. I think the most likely breakthrough will be something along the lines of a general amnesty and a caretaker presidency with internationally supervised elections in 60 days. We already know the candidates. Micheletti would have to step down. I would give Zelaya a 50/50 chance of returning as the caretaker president depending on how he responds in the negotiations. If major violence breaks out, I have no idea how this ends.

RAJ 4:18 PM  

Two objections to moving up elections:

pragmatically, there cannot be legitimate elections because a substantial number of people in Honduras have seen their civil rights violated and would have reason to expect voting their conscience might be dangerous.

legally, for all you defenders of the purity of the Honduran Constitution out there, it would be multiply illegal, as the dates of election and inauguration are both given in the constitution itself.

I actually wrote to Sec of State Clinton today urging that the US make a firm public statement. Her silence and the lack of symbolic actions like withdrawing the ambassador is being interpreted by the authoritarian regime as evidence of tacit support of the coup. And even moderate Honduran academics writing to me are beginning to reconsider whether the US approved the coup. This is a negative for US foreign policy.

Greg Weeks 4:26 PM  

I think that election observers could easily deal with the first problem, along with public reassurances from all sides about secrecy, etc. The second, though, is interesting. Can Hondurans violate the constitution to move up elections to deal with a coup originating with charges of violating the constitution?

el callao 5:03 PM  

Early elections would be a mistake. Both candidates were silent the days after the coup, and thus tacitly approved it. Either primary elections need to be re-run or Zelaya given the chance to form a third party. There's not much time to do this with the elections as scheduled. Moving up the elections would play into the designs of the coup plotters who wanted to get rid of Zelaya and replace him with a pro-oligarchy president as soon as possible. This is why the coup leaders themselves have been offering this option.

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