Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The OAS yet again in Honduras

So the OAS is back in Honduras, hopefully doing something different. Up to now, interaction has been along the lines of the following:

OAS: Let Zelaya back as president
Coup government: No.
OAS: Follow the Arias Accord.
Coup government: No.
OAS: OK, we'll leave. And then do this again in a few weeks.
Coup government: No hurry.

So the essential question is whether the OAS delegates bring anything new to the table. What pressures are member governments willing to exert on the coup government?

Days since the coup: 58
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 96

16 comments:

Nell 3:36 PM  

What pressures are member governments willing to exert on the coup government?

What specific actions do you suggest for OAS member states (by which you seem to mean exclusively non-U.S. and Canada member states)?

The U.S. and Canada are member governments. They are, in fact, the two largest member governments that have not committed not to recognize a government resulting from elections conducted under the coup regime (unlike Mexico and the UNASUR members).

Bringing such a resolution to the OAS would be an excellent move by the U.S. It would exert real pressure on the coup backers, support the OAS concretely, and put some oomph behind the administration's stated desire to act within an international framework.

Boz said here a while ago, in response to my suggestion that the U.S. do this, that there was nothing stopping Brazil or Chile from bringing such a resolution before the OAS.

Well, there is, and it's the fear that the U.S. would not support it, weakening the international pressure on Honduras and exposing divisions within the OAS.

It's my feeling that the U.S. needs to be put on the spot and soon, regardless of such concerns.
However, it's wrong to keep on holding the OAS responsible for weak actions it's the U.S. tacit support for the coup regime's run-out-the-clock that's weakening it.

Nell 3:55 PM  

Explicit advocacy of the approach of running out the clock and pretending that illegitimate elections held under a brutal coup regime will wash everything clean is found in a Foreign Affairs article by Michael Shifter.

For anyone who does not agree with this approach, what should the U.S. government do, and what should other OAS members do?

The clock is ticking faster than Greg's countdown indicates. The election campaign season begins August 31, and ballots are to be finalized for printing on September 5. If Zelaya is not restored in the next week, the elections will in fact be conducted under the coup regime.

Conditions do not exist in Honduras for free and fair elections. The evidence for this can be found in the reports of the recent delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Aug 17-21), the Amnesty International report (July 30-Aug 2), the report of the earlier independent human rights observer mission (July 17-26), and the overview of violations on the Honduran embassy's website.

The National Front Against the Coup in Honduras is calling for demonstrations at U.S. embassies around the world on Friday, August 28, to demand an end to our government's economic, military, and political support for the coup regime.

Nell 7:42 PM  

Today, the State Department did its (tiny) bit to signal support for the OAS delegation: It's suspending non-immigrant (i.e., travel/tourist) visas to Hondurans.

This comes exactly four weeks since the last concrete action (revoking five diplomatic visas of key golpistas), which came exactly three weeks after their first concrete action (suspending military aid). So mark your calendars for September 29: what bold step will the U.S. government take next in its inspiring defense of democracy?

Will it take until then for someone in this administration to say a single word in criticism of the continuing human rights abuses and media assaults against coup opponents?

Women detained in demonstrations are being raped by police. Night before last, armed men invaded Channel 36 TV and irreparably damaged their transmitters by pouring a chemical onto them. There was intimidation at a Channel 11 broadcast tower, where masked men roughed up a janitor.

Also being received with complete, deafening silence are the preliminary findings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the OAS body that just visited Honduras.

Nell 8:21 PM  

Via Al Giordano, Radio Globo reports an unusual meeting of the military high command and police chiefs, along with accounts of statements by Cardinal Rodriguez and various chambers of commerce in favor of restoring Zelaya as part of signing the San Jose "Accord", regardless of Micheletti's opposition.

Could it be that the OAS delegation has brought with them the message that failure to sign on will bring further actual sanctions, and/or OAS-wide non-recognition of elections (US and Canada included)?

Nell 8:34 PM  

Last comment today:

Greg has been interested in the range of views within the Catholic church toward the coup, the Zelaya government, the oligarchy, and the popular movement. John Donaghy, a lay worker in Santa Rosa de Copan, offers informed perspective.

Anonymous,  10:22 PM  

Once again Nell, thank god people like you are nowhere (and hopefully never will be) near any policy making position!

Randinho 10:46 PM  

Let's see, five informative posts by Nell and one ad hominem attack by anaymous.

Anonymous,  10:59 PM  

I think it had dawned on many that Zelaya's fate is not worth much more than words. This is true in Latin America where his martyrdom has very little resonance and there are hardly any concrete efforts to undo the coup. Neighboring countries have not closed their borders. Latin American countries have not offered to help the neighbors who would pay the economic price of closing borders.

In the US this indifference is visible and true, but even more so. The Obama administration is handling crises of greater domestic significance at this time. It's actions have been moderated by a very effective Republican PR offensive Zelaya's ties to Chavez.

Given this impasse will unlikely be broken by the current diplomacy, what might happen when the Nov. elections take place? Maybe I'm cynical but I just don't see the OAS maintaining a unified position denying the legitimacy of the election.

It may turn out that Micheletti et. al. wagered correctly on their ability to ride this one out.

Justin Delacour 11:11 PM  

What specific actions do you suggest for OAS member states (by which you seem to mean exclusively non-U.S. and Canada member states)?

No matter how many times we ask the question, Greg will not even attempt to answer it. Apparently he'd rather engage in a cheap, misguided game of blame-Latin-America than offer one concrete proposal.

Not very professorial, I should say.

Greg Weeks 6:35 AM  

I can keep repeating myself since I've written about this before, but suspension of trade is important leverage that Latin American countries have. Central American countries did so at the beginning, then backed off. No one wants to make the sacrifice.

Nell 1:57 PM  

No one wants to make the sacrifice.

No one wants to make the sacrifice pointlessly, which would be the case unless the U.S. showed some sign of concrete cooperation.

Trade shutdowns for El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala produce harsh effects on their own citizens, and inflict very significant hits on their relatively small economies. So those governments undertaking them have to have some political cover as well as be given some confidence that they're not pissing into the wind.

Mexico would seem, through size alone, better able to withstand the effects, but I'm unsure of the scale and character of Mexican-Honduran trade.

Let's imagine, though, that there had been signals of U.S. cooperation; the Latin American member states with larger economies and relatively insignificant Honduran trade might be reproached with not offering financial help to cushion a trade shutdown by the "frontline" states.

A countervailing consideration there is that, although trade shutdown does create a reasonably large and visible pressure on the coup government (harder to maintain the fiction that everything is normal), the ratio of pain inflicted on ordinary Hondurans vs. coupmakers is quite high as the list of possible tactics go.

By contrast, actions that the U.S. government could have undertaken long since are almost completely painless for U.S. constituencies:

- The Secretary of State or President roundly and loudly denouncing the human rights abuses and media suppression by the coup regime.

- Proposing and getting passed an OAS-wide non-recognition of November elections unless Zelaya govt is restored by Sept. 1. (Note: bonus of actual multilateralism in practice.)

- Visa denials, tourist as well as diplomatic, to the coup participants and backers and their families.

- Asset freezes, ditto.

These last could have been organized and announced with corresponding actions by Mexico and the Central American countries.

Do any of the Latin Americanist academics reading or posting here have a source for information on the scale (and character) of Honduran trade with the rest of the hemisphere?

Nell 2:00 PM  

Left out something important; edited version of the paragraph below:

---
By contrast, actions that the U.S. government could have undertaken long since are almost completely painless for U.S. constituencies and the Honduran population at large, while focusing pressure on the coup-makers.

Justin Delacour 9:42 PM  

Central American countries did so at the beginning, then backed off. No one wants to make the sacrifice.

That's completely absurd, Greg. Nicaragua has already made a hell of a lot more sacrifices than the United States by simply hosting Zelaya in the border region (which spurred Honduran forces to halt transport between the countries, thereby hurting Nicaragua's economy for a time). You're asking some of the most poverty-stricken countries in Central America to risk major economic damage to themselves, which would probably have major political ramifications for those countries on their domestic fronts.

For the United States, there are no such risks. The United States could end this coup by way of a little economic pressure, without risking any economic damage to itself.

Try again, Greg.

boz 7:55 AM  

I remember an era a long, long time ago (almost three months) when Latin American countries and most academics opposed unilateral trade embargoes by the US as a method to pressure an undemocratic government out of office and force regime change.

Anonymous,  9:51 AM  

Oh Boz, "there you go again." Plainly the US "embargo," "quarantine" and "economic warfare" against Cuba is against international morality. The UN voted as such. The OAS demanded this as well in San Pedro de Sula no less. Substitute Honduras for Cuba in Zelaya's welcome speech and you'll get a good measure of his political principles.

Justin Delacour 8:47 PM  

I remember an era a long, long time ago (almost three months) when Latin American countries and most academics opposed unilateral trade embargoes by the US...

Who said anything about "unilateral trade embargoes by the US," Boz? The United States doesn't need to employ a trade embargo against Honduras to end this coup. All it needs to do is freeze the bank accounts of the coup leaders, strip all of them of their diplomatic and tourist visas, and cut off aid.

It's very friggin' simple.

Now, get to work, my dear hack.

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