"And finally, on Central America, again, I don’t know what you’re referring to, but the United States believes strongly in democracy and we are supporting the return of constitutional democracy to Honduras. The election which was held was by all observers found to be free, fair, and legitimate. President Lobo has moved quickly to implement many of the recommendations that first came from President Arias’s work on the San Jose accords and then were incorporated into the Tegucigalpa Accord. He has a unity government. He has a truth commission that will be stood up. He expedited the safe departure of former President Zelaya. And we think that Honduras has taken important and necessary steps that deserve the recognition and the normalization of relations."The recently concluded trip throughout Latin America may have produced many positive outcomes for the US Department of State. But on the topic of Honduras, what it mainly showed was how far apart the US and Latin American countries still are, and why.
Hillary Clinton, March 4, 2010, in remarks in San Jose, Costa Rica
First, let's point out that Clinton's description of the situation on the ground is not, shall we say, entirely reality-based:
"The election which was held was by all observers found to be free, fair, and legitimate."The Honduran election was not observed by any of the usual institutions. UN election observers and the Carter Center for Democracy declined to observe the elections. Both groups stated that they did not find there were proper conditions to hold free and fair elections. Conservative organizations did send "observers", but these can hardly be regarded as independent. Nor can the individual national observers recruited to fill the breach through the business councils (COHEP and ANDI) and conservative civic organizations (the UCD). In some cases, these observers interfered with other observers. International progressive observers of the election, like those from the Quixote Center, would also contest this characterization.
"He has a unity government."
The redefinition of government of unity (and remember, the original call was for a government of unity and reconciliation) is one of the most cynical things here. Appointing the minor party candidates to the cabinet has now been redefined as "unity". Elvin Santos and the Liberal Party, sent to political exile, surely would debate that, as would the Frente de Resistencia. And even the minor gestures Lobo Sosa made have gotten him into trouble in his own National Party, which now says it intends to monitor him monthly, having registered its unhappiness with his failure to give out enough plum positions to party loyalists.
"He has a truth commission that will be stood up."
Ah, wishful thinking. The date for formation of the truth commission has passed, with only the Honduran participants named. And this immediately set off a smear campaign against Julieta Castellanos, who is regarded by many Honduran activists as not progressive enough, yet is under attack for hiring former members of the Zelaya government who are well-qualified for the jobs they are taking up. But perhaps the definition of what constitutes "standing up" a truth commission will be reshaped just as the definition of "unity government" has been.
So, in Hillary Clinton's world all is forgiven, and, as she put it, while "other countries in the region say that they want to wait a while. I don’t know what they’re waiting for" to regularize relations with Honduras.
There is a lot we could write about what actions other countries might appreciate. Start with the following:
Lobo Sosa has never renounced or condemned the coup d'etat of June 28 itself.
His government continues to appoint extremists from the de facto regime to positions of even greater authority.
He shows no sign of even wanting to engage in dialogue with the popular forces that opposed the coup and continue to campaign for constitutional reform.
His few actions to remove the most visible members of the coup, all taken under obvious pressure from the US, have followed equivocal statements in support of these same actors, and have been followed by their reappointment to other government jobs.
But in fact, Brazil's Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, managed to put it much more succinctly than all of that, as reported in the NY Times:
Foreign Minister Celso Amorim described some of Mr. Lobo’s actions since taking office as positive, but would not commit to restoring full relations with Honduras. A military coup “is the kind of thing that cannot be easily absorbed,” he said.Contrast that with Secretary of State Clinton's statement after her meeting with President Kirchner of Argentina:
"We had a very frank exchange of views about our different perceptions of Honduras. And as the president said, I appreciated the opportunity to explain why we believe that the free and fair elections which have elected the new president in Honduras means it’s time to turn the page. The difficult period Honduras went through, we hope is now over. "Again, listen to Celso Amorim's remarks after his meeting with Clinton:
"Countries that have undergone, say, the trauma of living under a military dictatorship following a coup d’état – for example, my own generation, Brazil was deprived of voting rights. For 21 years on end we were not able to vote for the presidency. So you can’t take these things that widely. You have to bring that into perspective."
"It’s the kind of thing that cannot be easily absorbed. I mean, the type of a military coup d’état happened and it struck a legitimately elected president who was very much in the middle of an otherwise successful term in office. So we need to, of course, work on the basis of two things, two variables: facts on the one hand, and time on the other hand. It can’t be just time, because, of course, some events may speed up the lapse of time, and that is why I do not wish to indicate any deadline, because very often you may find yourself without any relevant events, therefore time itself is not enough."
Yes. It can't just be time: there need to be facts. And the facts in Honduras include continued threats and murders of progressives, vilification of opposition members, and a failure to repudiate the coup d'etat or the authors of it.