Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Who Needs Brazil? On to Asia...

Tiempo's coverage characterizes this is a "reorientation" of resources. La Tribuna quotes vice-minister Mireya Agüero calling this a "temporary closure".

But the Honduran papers are clear: the budget formerly used to maintain embassies in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina will now be used to open commercial missions in India, Singapore, China, and Canada.

The ringer in there, of course, is Canada. Let's come back to that.

First, though, it is worth recognizing that Mario Canahuati, Foreign Relations Minister of Honduras, seems to be acknowledging that this is a response to the continued refusal of the UNASUR countries to recognize the Lobo Sosa government as legitimate.

Canahuati proposed that Honduras would maintain contact with South America via its embassies in Chile, Peru, and Colombia, the countries that have recognized the Lobo Sosa government. He is quoted as saying
"We cannot stop having relations with Latin America... it is better to have friends than enemies".

Tiempo, noting that the South American countries selected to have their embassies closed also reject readmission of Honduras into the OAS, says this is because
the country has not complied with certain requirements, among them the unconditional return of Zelaya without charges.

This is very much the way the issue is now portrayed in all media, Honduran and English alike. It is unfortunate, because it reduces the issue to personalization. It is of a piece with the lazy characterization of the resistance movement in Honduras as "Zelaya supporters", as, for example, the Economist does in a particularly bad article earlier this month.

Among the requirements that Honduras has not satisfied are some much more important ones. These have to do with investigating the human rights abuses that took place during the coup and under the de facto regime of Micheletti, and that continue to take place under the Lobo Sosa administration.

The mainstream media never really cared much to cover these stories. Just this month, Human Rights Watch issued a press release about threats to Leo Valladares, former ombudsman and the former president of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights:
Valladares told Human Rights Watch that he has received intimidating phone calls, and noticed people monitoring his home and following him, after he questioned the increasing power of the Honduran military since the 2009 coup.

"The Lobo administration's inability to ensure that human rights defenders can do their job and express their views without reprisals is frustrating," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "If someone with Leo Valladares' experience and international exposure is getting serious, credible threats, it is crystal clear that the human rights community in Honduras is facing risks."

It does not appear that this story was covered by any major media.

Nor has there been major media coverage of the continuing violence in the Aguan river valley, where Lobo Sosa's government exacerbated a confrontation between campesino cooperatives and large landowners, injecting the military into the region. Nor has the mainstream media seen fit to acknowledge that gay, lesbian, trans-sexual and transgender people are at constant risk in Honduras, with apparent impunity.

Zelaya isn't the issue. He may be a symbol, but the issue is that with the coup d'etat, Honduras moved backward, and no country with influence has used it to promote redress, except those of UNASUR.

Which brings us back to the main topic here: the Lobo Sosa government has made a discovery. It doesn't need to be legitimate to return to business as usual, as long as there are countries clamoring for cheap labor and new markets for cheap and dangerous goods. Lobo Sosa's recent Asian trip apparently encouraged him to expect new investments from that sector.

And Canada. Reportedly, Canada is close to finalizing a Free Trade Agreement with Honduras. Canadian mining companies with interests in Honduras, like Goldcorp, are enjoying record profits.

Oh, Canada.

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