Monday, December 13, 2010

That Pesky Zelaya Problem

Porfirio Lobo Sosa wants Honduras back in the OAS. Mario Canahauti, his Foreign Minister wants Honduras back in the OAS. José Miguel Insulza, OAS Secretary General, wants Honduras back in the OAS. Arturo Valenzuela, the Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs (or WHA as abbreviated in the leaked cables) of the US State Department wants Honduras back in the OAS.

All of the above named individuals know that the solution is simple: allow Manuel Zelaya Rosales to return to Honduras without facing the charges filed against him during the coup by the Public Prosecutor, Luis Rubi. All of the above named individuals, except Canahuati, have made attempts to make that happen.

In his most recent visit to Honduras, concluded the 6 of December, Arturo Valenzuela recognized the efforts of Lobo Sosa to bring about reconciliation, but insisted that Zelaya be allowed to return.
"National reconciliation will have advanced when Honduras is capable of resolving the affair of the return of ex president Zelaya so that it can retake its place in the OAS....This is important for the full reinstatement of Honduras in the international community....The bottom line of what the international community asks in effect is that there be n actual process where the law is applied euqally to all sectors there be a real search for national reconciliation, and this (the return of Zelaya) is an important step that must be accomplished and done."

This is a new recognition by the US State Department of the political reality in the OAS, since until now, the US has not raised Zelaya as an issue in talks with Honduras.

But the right wing in Honduras, which includes the group that planned and executed the coup, stands as a roadblock. As we saw in our recent post on Trash Talking, those standing in the way include Luis Rubi, the Public Prosecutor who brought the charges that need to be dismissed, Jorge Rivera Aviles, the Chief Justice who blessed the coup by exonerating the military for forcibly exiling Zelaya Rosales, and even members of Lobo Sosa's own National Party such as Rodolfo Irias Navas, currently a Congressman and former head of the National Party caucus in Congress.

José Miguel Insulza recently told the AP that he wants the vote to readmit Honduras to the OAS to not be divisive.
"What I am looking for is that the voting not be divisive. It would be very divisive if 10 or 11 voted against it, even if we got a majority....The situation of Zelaya needs to be resolved"

Right now, by his estimate, there are 11 or 12 votes against Honduras.

The cost in Honduras is a truncated foreign relations program. It has put a halt to negotiations about Honduras's maritime boundary with Cuba, Jamaica, Belize, and Guatemala in the Caribbean; It has halted funding for the continued placement of monuments along its border with El Salvador. It kept Honduras from being invited to the IberoAmerican meetings held in Argentina on December 4, at which the group adopted a new "democracy clause" specifying how it would react to future attempted coups in the hemisphere. The cost is in international investment, slowed by the coup. The cost is a 17% reduction in international tourism at Copan in June 2010 when compared with June 2009.

Can Honduras continue to bear the costs?


John (Juancito) Donaghy said...

Why does the US now want Zelaya to return? It's partly to "rehabilitate" Honduras in the international community, as you suggest. But might it also be part of an effort to support the Liberal Party. If Zelaya returns and continues to be connected with the Liberal Party that could mean, as some have suggested here, that the US wants to continue the "two party system" which has been conducive to US interests. Just a thought.

RAJ said...

It seems clear to us that indeed, the US would like to reinforce the two party dominance of Honduran politics, so if the State Department analysis suggests returning Zelaya would help with that, we can surely see that contributing.

The question is whether to the US State Department Zelaya's presence would strengthen the Liberal Party or not. Trying to answer that question seems like a very good object for continued thought and critical reading of US statements.

Up to now, there has not seemed to us to be any sense from the US that the Honduran two-party system needs Zelaya. Rather, they seemed to want to put both Zelaya and Micheletti-- twin ends, in some ways, of the Liberal Party as it was-- in the past. But thinking on this may have changed. And certainly, the US seems completely opposed to any continued organization outside the existing party structure, where Zelaya could be a very influential figure if he stays with the Frente instead of resuming a leading role in the Liberal Party.

Anonymous said...

Unless there's behind-the-scenes double-dealing, this would also suggest that the real orders to the Honduran "government" do not come from the State Department. Presumably they are hearing from their real masters, whoever those are, that keeping Zelaya out is more important than keeping the country solvent.


Marcus Brewer said...

These "costs" (as in the costs in Honduras listed at the end) are remarkably minor in the grand scehem of things, or in almost any scheme. Additionally, the list conflates not being in the OAS with all other consequences of the coup, which is not accurate or helpful. After all, tourists did not avoid Copan simply because Honduras wasn't in the OAS, and comparing a single month is misleading. The U.S. needs OAS to be/seem important, hence the U.S. needs friendlies in OAS - Honduras, historically anyway, was about the friendliest. The U.S. doesn't want OAS supplanted, which is what many negative OAS voters might opt for. So, appeasing is an attempt to hold together an outfit that has less and less meaning as the years go by. Many member countries could do without the OAS, even broke Honduras. The US needs OAS, hence they need OAS votes - and what they do to get them need not be tied to any 2-party or mystery dealings.

RAJ said...

"These costs...are remarkably minor in the grand scheme of things":

well, no. The cessation of multinational participation in setting a variety of boundaries has major economic implications, security implications, and postpones resolution of political problems that existed even before the coup.

"[T]ourists did not avoid Copan simply because Honduras wasn't in the OAS":

perhaps not; perhaps they dropped Honduras from their vacation agendas because of the coup itself, and the civil unrest it set in motion. In either case, the loss of income from tourism is not a trivial impact on the Honduran economy. You may want to attribute the entire decline of 17% year to year to the world economy, but think again; worldwide tourism declined on average 4% in 2009, then recovered to grow 7% in the first eight months of 2010, according to the UN World Tourism Organization.

As for your opinions on OAS (which frankly, we could not quite understand), the point is: Honduras wants OAS recognition because it is important politically and economically. The US, after long insisting that everyone should just vote to readmit Honduras because the coup was "behind" and that Lobo Sosa's government was one of "reconciliation", has now finally come into alignment with the major Latin American nations that did not agree.