Monday, July 06, 2009

The State Department and Zelaya

Mel Zelaya will soon be talking to Secretary Clinton and other State Department officials. Yesterday's background briefing is interesting for its utter lack of platitudes or vague pronouncements.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, we can’t address what else a de facto government might want to talk about since we’ve only received indications that they’re prepared to begin a process. So we’re going to have to wait and see what it is they want to talk about. But we and all the other members of the OAS have made clear that we’re looking for full restoration of democratic and constitutional order. And that would mean allowing President Zelaya to fulfill his mandate, which ends in January of 2010.

...

QUESTION: But you don’t rule out any different scenarios from Zelaya returning to power until January?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I mean, I think that what we’ve said is pretty clear. And again, we don’t want to be drawn into negotiations before negotiations have even started. That would be a big mistake. So, I mean, I would stick to what I said earlier, which is that full restoration of democratic and constitutional order means allowing President Zelaya to return to Honduras and fulfill his mandate as the legal and constitutional president of Honduras.


The only wiggle room I could possibly see is if elections were moved forward, but Zelaya was restored as president until they occurred (which could technically "fulfill his mandate"). But, of course, Micheletti has said that is a non-starter.

16 comments:

Doug 9:34 PM  

Greg -

One question I had was what you think about each parties' chances this November. I have no idea what's happening with the primaries, but party-wise it would seem to favor a big Nationalista win, no?

Btw, any idea as to why Pepe Lobo is coming out in favor Zelaya's restoration?

(I saw it in the Heraldo, but don't see it now. Maybe it's down again?)

Gabriel 9:43 PM  

Doug,

The primaries are over. The candidates are already known. Another reason why they should just bring the election date forward.

Doug 9:59 PM  

Any guesses as to how it might play out?

Gabriel 10:01 PM  

I'm talked to people there but it's so polarized it's hard to measure. My sense is that most people are anti Zelaya now but I don't have any hard evidence. But quick elections would resolve this soon.

leftside 10:24 PM  

There appears to be a struggle over this in the State Department. The result has been as weak a position as possible, while still seeking to maintain the appearance of OAS solidarity. It is probably the reason Zelaya had to fly back for a one-on-one with Hillary. Perhaps there are some smart folks in State able to tell her that this could be a big win for the US. If the region perceives the US truly helping to restore Zelaya without making unacceptable concessions, some folks may really start thinking things have changed in Washington. But from where I sit, I think the anti-Chavez hawks still run things.

Doug, there is no doubt Zelaya was a lame duck in the months before he left - sitting in the mid 30s support-wise. But now, who knows? I sense a wave of true patriotism rising - which has the potential to kick out a lot of these establishment bums who have shown their true colors.

leftside 10:48 PM  

Some pretty amazing video from the airport yesterday if you haven't seen it (BBC).

leftside 10:52 PM  

And some amazing photos here.

RAJ 12:42 AM  

The original Pepe Lobo comments were in an article by Roberto Quesada in El Tiempo (which appears to be down right now, hence no link, sorry).

The simplest way to read the comments is that he is opening distance from the de facto government.

In terms of what this does to the electoral hopes of the two main parties:

Elvin Santos, the candidate for the PL, was already distancing himself from the coup and the de facto government, including having a representative endorse the statement by a group of Liberal Party congress members who claim not to have been in support of the vote on Sunday June 28, and thus not to have endorsed the ouster of Zelaya and Micheletti assuming power. (Santos defeated Micheletti in the primary last year, one of the sources of friction between Zelaya and Micheletti cited by Honduran academics; Micheletti reportedly felt Zelaya did not do enough for his candidacy and/or helped Santos, his former Vice President.)

Another analysis written by a Honduran academic suggests that both major parties originally saw the replacement of Zelaya as a plus for them: the PN being able to hold the PL responsible, and portray themselves as the alternative; the PL being able to distance themselves from an unpopular president (one of my big unanswered questions is actually how unpopular Zelaya was by June 28).

At least one independent candidate has declared that he would run if the elections were moved up to provide an alternative to the two main parties.

But today, at least one of the other parties stated that accelerating the election timeline would unduly favor the main parties, and disadvantage the minor parties. And there still is the unanswered question about the whereabouts of Cesar Ham, the UD candidate for President, without whose participation that party would surely call foul on any accelerated election.

The difficulties of the minor parties might be a major block to any accelerated timeline for an election. And of course an election could only be legitimate if it took place while the legitimate Zelaya government was back in power (even if Zelaya himself, for example, chose to resign following a restoration and preceding elections).

Finally, it does not appear to me that moving up the election actually would do a thing really to resolve this, since the new President cannot be inaugurated until January 27 following the election. This date is written into the constitution (Capitulo 6, articulo 237). So even if the elections were moved up, there would still be the issue of who governs until January.

Nell 1:56 AM  

What a breath of fresh air and welcome information, Raj. Thanks.

leftside 3:12 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gabriel,  8:31 AM  

Raj,

thanks for your comments.

This is a huge mess and there is no easy solution. But the date on the constitution need not be that big a deal. All parties involved apper to have violated some constitutional precept or other. Zelaya ignored the basic separation of powers. The military kicked him out without a trial. So making a 'one time exception' should be perfectly fine. Remember, that's what the US Supreme Court claimed it did with its Bush v Gore decision.

The reality in the ground is that Zelaya is opposed by all major institutions. He repeatedly broke the law and even resorted to mob rule. He was then kicked out ilegally. There's no putting the toothpaste back for this mess. Honduras needs to find a way to move on in a manner that reflects popular wishes. An election appears to be the best way.

Doug 8:50 AM  

Raj -
You wrote - "And of course an election could only be legitimate if it took place while the legitimate Zelaya government was back in power (even if Zelaya himself, for example, chose to resign following a restoration and preceding elections)."

That's a question I had thought about. If Santos were to win, and Zelaya still had not come, I agree, that could not be legit, even if he had managed to separate himself from the de facto government. But do you think the same holds true if the PN wins? (Lobo is the candidate there, as I remember)

Alex 12:49 PM  

I know I'm in the minority here, but I think the elections should be pushed back instead of forward to make room for new primaries. The candidates may be having second thoughts now as to whether they should support the coup after they have seen the world's and especially the US's reaction, but in the initial aftermath they remained quiet, tacitly approving the coup. The Honduran people have probably learned a thing or two about Santos and Lobo and they should have a chance to reconsider their candidacy.

el callao 1:28 PM  

Besides, Zelaya has already not served two weeks out his 4 year term. He should at least be allowed to extend his term whatever amount of time he remains ousted from power.

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