The head of the de-facto government which ousted Honduras’ left-leaning president, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya in a military coup spat defiance and refused to give an inch to the entreaties of a last ditch delegation of Organization of American States foreign ministers on Tuesday. The ministers admitted that their mission was a failure.
The foreign ministers mission, including representatives of Mexico, Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Panama and the Dominican Republic, had gone to the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, to make a push for acceptance of a plan (the “San Jose Accords) presented by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to resolve the situation in the Central American Nation. President Zelaya had previously accepted the entire plan, but Micheletti and his regime, as well as the pro-coup Supreme Court, had refused to countenance two important points: The return of Zelaya to serve out his term, which ends in January of 2010, and amnesty for all concerned on both sides. Both Micheletti and the Supreme Court have said that if Zelaya returns he cannot return to the presidency, and will be put on trial for treason and abuse of power, for pushing for a non-binding popular referendum asking if Hondurans want a constituent assembly to be set up to rewrite their 1982 constitution.
Micheletti said that his government can only be removed by military force and that he thinks that Honduras can endure any kind of blockade.
Costa Rican foreign minister Bruno Stagno, who was part of the delegation, expressed concern that the fall presidential and congressional election campaign in Honduras is due to begin on September 1, with the election to be held on November 29. Stagno and others have pointed out that elections without the return of both Zelaya and constitutional normalcy cannot be considered fair, as candidates opposed to the Micheletti regime can not campaign openly, and media coverage of the election campaigns of Micheletti opponents will be repressed.
The Micheletti regime has darkly hinted that pro-Zelaya organizations on the left are funded by the Colombian FARC guerillas, as says that “at the appropriate time” proofs of this will be presented. Repression of Zelaya supporters continues, and in some communities pro-Zelaya municipal authorities are said to have been replaced by military officers. Snap curfews make active participation in politics difficult. International organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, as well as Honduran women’s organizations and organizations representing indigenous and Afro-Honduran sectors, have documented a widespread pattern of violent repression of pro-Zelaya, anti-coup forces. .
And on top of all this, on Sunday night parties unknown broke into the studies of the two only pro-Zelaya electronic media outlets, Radio Globo and Channel 36 TV, overpowering the staff and saturating delicate broadcasting equipment with corrosive liquids which rendered it non-functional. At last report Radio Globo is broadcasting again but TV 36 is still off the air. The “El Tiempo” daily newspaper is the only other major media entity that has leaned toward Zelaya; the rest are all owned by members of the right-wing oligarchy who support and fund the coup.
In response to these events, the U.S. State Department announced today that it is suspending the issuance of new non-immigrant and non-emergency visas by the Tegucigalpa embassy. Though people already having multiple-entry visas will still be able to use them until further notice, new business, tourist and study visas will not be available. The (pro-Zelaya) Honduran ambassador to the United States, Eduardo Reina, expressed approval of this move, even though he recognized that it will cause hardship for some Hondurans; he said that the Micheletti gang must be held accountable.
Steps that the United States has not taken yet include freezing the U.S. bank accounts of coup leaders, an action taken in the past with foreign leaders it doesn’t approve of. This, and the cancellation of U.S. visas for coup leaders, has been requested specifically by President Zelaya.
The United States could also join numerous hemispheric governments plus hemispheric international organizations such as UNASUR, MERCOSUR and ALBA, which together include most of the nations and peoples of Latin America, in declaring that it will not recognize any Honduran government elected on November 29 unless President Zelaya and constitutional normality are promptly restored, and repression of the pro-Zelaya opposition is stopped.
The National Front Against the Coup, which is the labor-led coordinating group for anti-coup mobilizations in Honduras, has called for an international day of protest against the coup Wednesday, August 26. There will be protests in front of U.S. embassies in a number of countries, calling for the U.S. to increase pressure for Micheletti to back down.