Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chavez, Lobo, and readmitting Honduras to the OAS

News reports have appeared claiming that Honduras will be reintegrated to the OAS following a meeting between Hugo Chavez and Porfirio Lobo Sosa in Cartagena, Colombia.

AFP's story probably hews closest to the truth: talks were held, that is true. But nothing really has changed, so press coverage claiming a breakthrough would appear to be premature. As AFP correctly described the situation

Zelaya is currently in exile in the Dominican Republic, and will not return to Honduras until he is guaranteed immunity from legal action. His return is a condition for the OAS to re-admit Honduras.

What that means is that someone with the ability to do so would have to guarantee that the remaining charges against Zelaya were dismissed. Lobo Sosa, the head of the executive branch of government, cannot make such a guarantee, because the charges are being defended by the judicial branch.

While the most obvious political charges against Zelaya were recently dismissed, there remain charges on which the court still demands Zelaya be tried. Lobo Sosa has made overtures before, and has been briskly pushed back by Honduran factions who want the OAS to back down.

The head of the Honduran Supreme Court Jorge Rivera Aviles, recently reiterated that the judicial branch-- which is, we re-emphasize, not controlled by Lobo Sosa-- thinks it has done enough to satisfy the international community:

“From my point of view all the requirements for Honduras to be in the OAS have already been completed...Honduras should be reintegrated without greater conditions (since it has complied) with the aspects of national reconciliation and government respect for human rights, to give accounts to international organizations and many other activities since Lobo took office”.

Speaking specifically to the question of Zelaya still being under threat of trials that, given the extreme nature of his removal from office and the open hostility of the courts to him, we might assume will be somewhat less than fair, the head of the Supreme Court continued:

"He can come anytime, he doesn't have any warrant for arrest pending".

For pro-coup Honduras, this is reality, even if the rest of the world sees things otherwise.

A call for charges to be dropped against ex-President Zelaya is reinterpreted: see, we won't arrest him (at least right away) so why should he be afraid to come back?

So it seems wildly unlikely that Lobo Sosa will shift their position, especially not on the promise that Hugo Chavez-- reviled by the Honduran right-- would then change his position.

And notice that in fact, Chavez has not changed his position. Santos may have managed a surprise meeting with Lobo Sosa, but the "agreement" is that Lobo Sosa needs to deliver the immunity from prosecution which has always been the requirement for readmission to the OAS.

The positive spin on the most recent meeting comes from two sources: Porfirio Lobo Sosa and the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos. Both are, quite obviously, interested parties who would like to get credit for changing the situation.

The Chinese publication People's Daily (in English) quotes Lobo Sosa as its main source, saying
"I am very glad the meeting has initiated the incorporation of Honduras into regional bodies like the OAS".

Santos, on the other hand, sounded more cautious even in this highly spun story:
"I hope this meeting will become a further step toward the final settlement of Honduras' problem with the OAS and that the OAS will accept Honduras' return as a full member of that organization."

A "further step" is a long way from "initiating incorporation" in OAS. Indeed, coverage in the English-language Colombia Reports is more measured:

The Honduran president said he agreed to allow ousted former leftist President Zelaya to return to the country with immunity from prosecution. This is a condition of the readmission of Honduras to the OAS.

The problem remains that the will to acknowledge that the coup of 2009 was a coup is absent in Honduras. So various parties cling to their claims of corruption-- not that these would, in fact, have justified a coup.

Lobo Sosa has pretty successfully distanced himself from the coup, but does so, among other things, by pushing to the forefront the Supreme Court-- still the same group that claimed it was entirely legal in documents widely believed by anti-coup activists to have been post-dated and essentially doctored.
And the head of the Supreme Court has no intention of taking one step more to facilitate international recognition. In fact, he said earlier this week that
"the President, Porfirio Lobo, has made enormous efforts and has attended to many international requirements, in such a way that to the extent that he acceeds, they ask even more".

Time, Rivera Aviles thinks, to draw a firm line in the sand.

More egregious than his refusal to recognize the difference between immunity from prosecution and removing an arrest warrant, even if it is not what the press or the three presidents meeting in Cartagena talked about, is River Aviles' claim that the Lobo Sosa government has met international demands on human rights.

It just is not so. But then, in Rivera Aviles' circles-- and most likely in the view of Lobo Sosa as well-- it is just unfair of the rest of the world to insist on such conditions for Honduras, because the people being beaten in the streets, tear gassed, and hit with water cannons, asked for it by not accepting the iron fist of control exercised over their country.

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