Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The State Department and Honduras

It is worth reading the transcript of a conference call a "senior State Department official" had with reporters, mostly Latin American. Those reporters asked some very good questions and kept probing, in a way that reporters from the U.S. have not. The highlights:

The U.S. is open to more sanctions:

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think what I’m trying to say is that we really think that both sides need to accept the plan. And we will consider – we will continue to try to work with both sides that they will reach that same conclusion, and we will do what we think we can to help them move in that direction.

But the current visa denial will not have much impact.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I guess most businessmen would probably have multiple entry visas, which I assume would not be affected by this.


QUESTION: So we’re talking basically about tourist season, so about 45 – or rather, 30,000 tourist visas a year that you’re talking about. That doesn’t seem very – like a big deal.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: What we have said is that we are temporarily suspending services because we want to do a review.

And, finally, a gem of a quote about whether this should be labeled a "military coup":

We’re waiting for our lawyers to help us to understand what we’re supposed to understand.


Abby Kelleyite 5:15 PM  

Somehow I don't think it's the lawyers' understanding they need, but I do love that quote.

Nell 6:37 PM  

I was just coming here to post the link. I think it's worth including a different passage dealing with the ruling on the coup's military coup-ness:

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We have said from the very beginning, what we do know is that the legitimate government, the legitimate president, was taken out of office in a way that was not prescribed, in a way that was unexpected and forced. And we call that a coup, a coup to the head of the government.

There are specific – we have laws – there’s a – I forget the exact section of the law that deals with our – the way we can handle assistance and the way we can handle our relationship with a country if there is a military coup, if the person in charge of, leading, and then taking over the government after the coup are the military. And we are examining to determine whether or not that’s the case here.

QUESTION: Thank you. One last question. Just when would you expect to finish that inquiry?


So: tomorrow?

Sylvia Longmire 3:41 PM  

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not convinced this was a military coup (you're more than welcome to read my articles on the subject), simply because there was no "junta" that took over immediately after Zelaya was removed. The Congress followed what they felt was the proper legal procedure by appointing someone to act as interim president. That means that Micheletti was chosen - he did not force his way into the hot seat, and this is the biggest reason for my skepticism.

That being said, the Supreme Court should never have sent Zelaya to Costa Rica, and I believe they've publicly acknowledged that. If they had kept Zelaya in-country (I don't buy the excuse of avoiding riots), then all this mess might have been avoided.

Anyway, on to the subject of the OAS. I firmly believe that organizations like the OAS - and the UN, and any other regional organization - have no teeth to accomplish anything meaningful. To be blunt, you can write and approve as many resolutions and sanctions as you want, but if a country's leadership REALLY wants to do something, they'll continue to do it regardless of international pressure. I don't have the space for all the countries engaging in nasty behavior despite sanctions and resolutions, but you know what I'm talking about.

Bottom line, unless Micheletti is forcibly removed (by whom, I don't know), I think we'll see a November election without Zelaya as a personal witness.

Greg Weeks 3:51 PM  

There is no doubt it is a military coup, as military rule (or a junta) is not a necessary component. As always, I refer readers to Alfred Stepan's works (esp. _The Military in Politics_) on the "moderator model" of civil-military relations. It fits this situation perfectly. There have been many military coups in Latin America that have not involved direct military rule. Stepan examines why that changed in Brazil in 1964.

Abby Kelleyite 3:53 PM  

According to Reuters, State staff have recommended making the "military coup" determination.

Greg Weeks 4:05 PM  

The next several days will be very interesting and, if the past is any guide, also unpredictable.

Anonymous,  6:55 PM  

So if the police had removed Zelaya and put him on a civilian airliner, then it would not have been a "military coup".

Your arguments for a "military coup" are not very convincing.

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