Thursday, July 16, 2009

Micheletti and shifting sand

I had barely finished writing that the coup government's proposal would be seen as insufficient when Micheletti suddenly changed it by saying he would step down if Zelaya was not allowed to return as president.

He made the offer to the U.S. government instead of Oscar Arias (who plans to hold talks on Saturday--he could well be overtaken by events) in the hope of convincing the Obama administration to put pressure on Zelaya to accept. I tend to doubt they would do so, and he would likely ignore them anyway. Protestors are obviously getting under Micheletti's skin (hence the curfew is back) and very clearly could get worse.

Now, whither the military? I keep hearing rumors about splits within it, but have no means of confirming anything. Regardless, the armed forces do not want to be stuck in the middle of a mob and told to keep order as their civilian leaders run for cover. Their support for the coup government will have limits.

21 comments:

Gabriel 9:50 AM  

From Zelaya's perspective Micheletti is but a small part of his problems. MIcheletti may not be the legitimate president but Congress certainly is. So is the Supreme Court. So is the Attorney General. So is the Electoral Tribunal. How is Zelaya going to deal with them if he manages to return?

Doug 10:48 AM  

Gabriel-

I see that as much less of a problem than the other way around, ie. the pro-coup going up against unanimous international condemnation and sanctions.

Gabriel 11:03 AM  

You see it as less of a problem, but the institutions in Honduras disagree. The Attorney General and the judiciary, both perfectly legitImate, have ordered Zelaya arrested if he returns. If that happens, will Zelaya accept it, or will he ignore their rulings and turn to mob rule, as he did just a few weeks ago?

Greg Weeks 11:06 AM  

Gabriel, I think these are pointless questions because everything is changing so rapidly. In particular, we need to see how the negotiations (or dialogue, or whatever we want to call them) proceed, what becomes of the discussion about amnesty, etc.

Gabriel 11:12 AM  

They may become pointless if an all parties agree to an amnesty. But they are not pointless today since that country's legitimate institutions have made their views clear.

And if they are to agree to an amnesty, what will Zelaya give up in return? The idea that Micheletti should step aside and Zelaya return without any conditions begs the question of what happens next, since there's an arrest order for him.

Doug 11:23 AM  

Gabriel-

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think there is less resentment than might be expected, for example, in a country like Guatemala. I am thinking in general terms about the Honduran character, which is fairly soft and round-edged.
Specifically, General Vasquez' comments Greg pointed out that showed a personal warmth toward Zelaya, in spite of everything that had happened.

Justin Delacour 1:58 PM  

The idea that Micheletti should step aside and Zelaya return without any conditions begs the question of what happens next, since there's an arrest order for him.

Well, let them arrest Zelaya, then.

The problem, Gabriel, is that they're too afraid to do it because they know that, if they do it, Zelaya's detention would become such a focal point of protest that it would imperil the governability of the country.

Anonymous,  3:46 PM  

Doug,

You write:

"I am thinking in general terms about the Honduran character, which is fairly soft and round-edged"

Hondurans are like big teddy bears?

-Will

Justin Delacour 4:06 PM  

Hondurans are like big teddy bears?

No, Will, they're birds whose wings need to be clipped. Or at least that's what you told us about Zelaya.

Doug 5:05 PM  

Having lived there off and on for ten years, my experience was that Hondurans are less interested in exploiting differences and more about finding ways ameliorate their often fairly precarious personal situations. I think when Zelaya is finally restored, this trait will come in handy.

Compare that to the situation in Nicaragua, for example, where being pugnacious is almost a point of pride, or Guatemala, where reticence has made the country, even years after the peace treaty was signed, still seem silently at war. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm fairly optimistic these division will sort themselves out without too much strife.

Anonymous,  5:06 PM  

Justin,

Your confusing me with another "Will", I didn't write anywhere that Zelaya's wings needed to be clipped..I like birds and I hate to see them in cages or with clipped wings...I am also opposed to military coups. I also don't care very much cultural analyses that attempt to essentialize groups of people in a particular manner..

Best,

Will (the one who did NOT write anything about Zelaya being clipped)

Anonymous,  5:11 PM  

Doug,

You write that :

"Having lived there off and on for ten years, my experience was that Hondurans are less interested in exploiting differences and more about finding ways ameliorate their often fairly precarious personal situations. "

My understanding of the state of working conditions in Honduran export processing zones and banana plantations is that a great deal of exploitation is taking place and elites within in the country have no problem taking advantage of other people's "precarious personal situations"..is that not correct?

Best,

Will

Greg Weeks 5:45 PM  

Confusion about who is talking is common when people do not log in to Blogger. I am fine if people comment anonymously for their own reasons, but my suggestion is that anyone who is interested in participating in debate log in with some sort of "handle" so that everyone knows to whom they should direct responses.

Doug 5:57 PM  

You're right, passivity can be a negative side effect of someone who doesn't go looking for a fight, but I think at this moment, it's not so germane of a criticism. What has made me proud is that Hondurans have indeed stood up, not simply for 'Mel', but for their own vote, their voice at the electoral urn. And that will carry forward and be strong plus and source of pride for a long while.

But the original point was simply answering Gabriel's doubts that all institutions will be at war with Zelaya upon his return. I said I doubt that, simply because I don't think that Hondurans have an ingrained sense of hostility for it's own sake, and if an amnesty deal is set up for all around, eillseek to to put this current moment of tension behind them.

Doug 5:58 PM  

Ugh..

Will seek..


Carry on.

Justin Delacour 8:53 PM  

Your confusing me with another "Will", I didn't write anywhere that Zelaya's wings needed to be clipped..

My apologies, Will. Indeed, I had you confused with the other anonymous.

RAJ 10:03 PM  

Having conducted research in Honduras for more than thirty years, living there most of the time over a period of four years doing my doctoral research, I am trying to decide if I agree with Doug that Hondurans are inherently less likely to hold historical grudges. As an anthropologist, I shy away from "national character" arguments.

But I think there is something here, which has to do with the fact that Hondurans have in the twentieth century had to deal with political divisions that cut through families. The Honduran historian Darío Euraque, in a brilliant and as-yet unpublished talk, used a single photograph of a wedding among the power elite in the 1940s as a prompt. Those in attendance, working people, not elites, recognized who the people in the photos were, and knew the political stories (the dictator, the general, the future president who would be deposed by a coup) and also, clearly, the familial relations.

That common sense of history has probably helped Hondurans remake peace when needed. But I also am mindful of an exchange between Dr. Euraque and the Minister of Culture, Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle, about the past histories of violence by the parties to which each one's family belonged, in which one family member was imprisoned and another shot. These also are part of the social memory of the country.

And I worry when Pastor Fasquelle writes that the country is more polarized today than ever before. So much wealth entered the economy in the past 25 years, and it has made the economic divide literally impossible to ignore.

But I would like to believe that the fundamental posture of the Honduran people towards each other will help heal the wounds created by this coup. And I do think the kinds of institutionalized barriers between segments of the populace that allow more enduring polarization in Guatemala (especially racial/ethnic divisions) have not been so hardened in recent years. Problem is, they are deployed in the current crisis, and that could be some of the lasting damage.

Doug 10:24 PM  

Raj -

Thanks for putting a bit of a brake on my rather lay observations. My experience in Honduras and Guatemala are from a commercial background, and I can only speak from that.

Nonetheless, I have always been impressed by how quick Hondurans are to find a solution to whatever dispute they might face. Now, whether that is a simple 'papering-over' or that reflects a genuine finding of common ground I don't have the confidence to say.

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