Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Recognition": grasping at straws in Nicaragua

A news article in El Heraldo today reports that a previously scheduled meeting of the Presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua to be held in Guatemala this Sunday has been canceled.

Explanations were diverse, but all concerned the President of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes. He is either sick, over-scheduled, or had a problem with his agenda. Three participants, three reasons. Raises the question, what really is going on?

Funes and Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom were reportedly to try to convince Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega to support the re-integration of Honduras in the Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (SICA), the Central American System of Integration.

Reintegration in SICA, the El Heraldo article says (in the kind of editorializing that is typical of the Honduran press)
without a doubt will open the doors for the return of Honduras to the OAS.
Nicaragua, the story notes, is the only Central American government not to recognize what the writers call

the democratic process from which Lobo emerged, because it was carried out under the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti.

Pretty fair factual statement about what Nicaragua sees as the problem with the Lobo Sosa government.

But the story then editorializes that Nicaragua (actually, it says Daniel Ortega, trying to personalize a government action and thus delegitimate it) took this position

despite the fact that [the election] was programmed since before the coup d'Etat that deposed the constitutional president Manuel Zelaya.

Today's story also mentions a meeting that took place between Ortega and Lobo Sosa in Managua on Friday as evidence of progress toward the goal of Honduran legitimation.

Coverage of the Friday meeting in El Heraldo happily headlined the story "Daniel Ortega bestows recognition on Lobo".

So what was the political content of the meeting, how did it come about, and how can El Heraldo claim it represented "recognition"?

Lobo Sosa was en route to Panama, and the meeting took place in the Managua airport during a stopover.

Ortega is quoted as saying

"Hemos coincidido en que no se debe de rehuir la palabra unidad, que es una necesidad vital, la unidad de la región centroamericana".

["We have concurred that the word unity should not be avoided, that it is a vital necessity, the unity of the Central American region."]

Quite an endorsement of the Lobo Sosa government, isn't it? See the clear statement of recognition? Why not? The Latin American Herald Tribune thinks it did.

The actual purpose of the meeting was for the two countries to sign an agreement to reactivate a bilateral commission on disputes about the Gulf of Fonseca, the Pacific coastline shared by Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. The El Heraldo article resuscitates the claim that Nicaragua and El Salvador are trying to close access to the Pacific by Honduras, by projecting a marine frontier directly between them (leaving Honduras with frontage on the Gulf of Fonseca, but no right to move into the Pacific).

Border disputes also exist on the Caribbean coast, for which, the same article noted, Ortega and Lobo Sosa agreed they should reactivate the commission on national boundaries initiated October 2008.

Lobo Sosa thanked Ortega for releasing a group of Honduran fisherman seized in Pacific waters claimed by Nicaragua. His other quotes were the same kind of vague generalizations about unity as the one quote from Ortega.

So: how is this recognition?

Quoting El Heraldo:

La firma del acuerdo de carácter político, selló el reconocimiento de parte de Ortega al gobierno del presidente Lobo.

[The signing of an agreement of a political character, seals the recognition on the part of Ortega of the government of president Lobo.]

Inter-governmental negotiation of border disputes cannot be entirely set aside, or among other things, Nicaragua would be forced to indefinitely hold Honduran fisherman captive. Vague endorsement of greater integration of Central America is a far cry from recognition, even if it is a relief to Lobo Sosa not to be so completely ostracized.

The problem with this kind of reporting-- other than that it is a complete misrepresentation of facts-- is that it continues to muddy the waters of what precisely is and is not recognition of a government.

It might even disincline a diplomat to participate in other discussions that might be subject to the same kind of egregious spin, spin that recalls the constant drumbeat of disinformation published by the Honduran newspapers throughout the rule of Roberto Micheletti.

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