The latest news out of Honduras is very alarming. It would appear that the much ballyhood “accords” worked out last week between negotiating teams for President Manuel Zelaya and coup leader Roberto Micheletti are being used as yet another cynical delaying tactic by the latter, and as a cop-out stratagem by the Obama administration.
The accords were that the Congress would vote on restoring Zelaya to the presidency, then a unity government would be formed, an international monitoring commission headed by Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis would be set up to ensure compliance, after which the elections scheduled for November 29 would be recognized by all. Finally, sanctions would be dropped.
Zelaya evidently believes that he has the votes in Congress to be restored to the presidency.
However, none of this is happening except the formation of the monitoring commission. The pro-coup leadership of Congress is refusing to go into a special session to ratify the accords and act on the question of Zelaya’s return, perhaps until after the November 29 election. Nor is there agreement on the composition of the government of unity.
Now there is worry that the Obama administration has made an agreement with the Republican Party to back off further support for Zelaya’s return to office in exchange for the South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint withdrawing his objections to the confirmation in the Senate of Arturo Valenzuela as Assistant Secretary of State for Hemispheric Affairs and Thomas Shannon, who was one of the chief negotiators of the Honduras accords of last week, as ambassador to Brazil.
Today, Senator DeMint today put out a crowing press release taking credit for pushing the Obama administration into backing off on Honduras. And indeed, today also, Valenzuela and Shannon were confirmed.
Giving further credence is a statement by Shannon that the United States will now recognize the November 29 elections whether Zelaya is restored to power or not. Zelaya sharply questioned this, at which point the State Department issued an assurance that they still support Zelaya’s restoration. But the threat not to recognize the election results is vital for pressuring the coup regime. Without this threat, plus sanctions, statements of support for Zelaya are just words.
Initially, most leaders of the resistance in Honduras were guardedly supportive of the agreement. That support is now evaporating fast. Berta Oliva, head of the Committee of the Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained in Honduras today called for a three month delay in the elections, because of the repression which has been going on since the campaign season started on September 1. For two months of the three allotted by Honduran law, right wing candidates for president, Congress and local offices have been out campaigning like mad, while at least two left-wing candidates for office have been killed and others are unable to campaign openly. The right wing press has been able to put out all sorts of lies (that the left is financed by the FARC, that pro-Zelaya demonstrators are actually Venezuelan, etc.), while the left media have been suppressed for weeks on end.
Even if constitutional normalcy were restored and the agreements implemented tomorrow, there would still be only three weeks and three days for opposition candidates to campaign. To delay restoration of normalcy any longer would completely vitiate any residual legitimacy of such elections.
The scene has been set for Micheletti, his co-conspirators in the Honduran oligarchy and military, and their allies in the U.S. Republican Party to triumph. If that happens, the reaction against the Obama administration in Latin America will be one of furious anger. Combined with concern about new U.S. military aid to the extreme right wing regime in Colombia, and the continuation of the U.S. blockade of Cuba, it will leave the administration’s hemispheric policy in ruins.
We need to contact the White House and the State Department to demand that the U.S. return to the policy of refusing to recognize the elections in Honduras unless Zelaya and constitutional normalcy are restored immediately, and strengthen the sanctions instead of dropping them.