Honduras’ golpistas break deal

November 9, 2009

Shaun Joseph explains what led to the collapse of an agreement that was supposed to bring Manuel Zelaya back to office in Honduras.

THE POLITICAL crisis that began with the June 28 coup d'etat against President Manuel Zelaya has reopened afresh after the collapse of a U.S.-brokered deal apparently agreed to by coup leader Roberto Micheletti that was supposed to return Zelaya to office.

The agreement, known as the Tegucigalpa/San José Accords, was struck October 28 under the auspices of Thomas Shannon and Daniel Restrepo--respectively the top Latin America hands for the U.S. State Department and the Obama White House.

One week later, the deal was in tatters, with its first important step--the installation of a "government of unity and national reconciliation" by November 5--devolved into a typically absurd display of Micheletti's chutzpah.

The accords didn't formally mandate the reinstatement of Zelaya, but the ousted president clearly expected to return to office by November 5. Zelaya's confidence in this interpretation, also shared by other governments, is strong evidence that the U.S. negotiators guaranteed Zelaya's return.

Manuel Zelaya addressing supporters from the balcony of the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa
Manuel Zelaya addressing supporters from the balcony of the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa

Because this was for many--including the popular anti-coup resistance--a precondition for recognition of upcoming elections, scheduled for November 29, tolerating Zelaya until the end of his term in January would have been the most intelligent option for Honduras' elite.

Although the business class backed the coup, the relentless struggle of the resistance has prevented Micheletti's regime from consolidating and legitimating itself, opening up splits among the country's rulers about whether to continue backing the coupmakers. The elections would have given Honduras' business interests an opportunity to go back to "business as usual," ending months of exhausting--and expensive--political instability.

But the "golpistas" arrogance has often ruled the day during the coup, and it appears to have done so again.

THE FIRST omens that the coup regime would back out of the agreement came immediately after it was signed, with pro-coup legislators openly predicted that Zelaya would not be restored--and this didn't draw any objection from U.S. officials.

What you can do

Spanish readers can find out more about the National Resistance Front Against the Coup d'Etat at its Web site. Material support for the Front can be provided via an international bank account listed at the site.

The Quixote Center organizes a great deal of Honduras solidarity work in the U.S., including solidarity delegations. In the Boston area, there is a very active Committee in Solidarity with the Honduran Resistance.

For more on the situation in Honduras, Spanish speakers can find live streaming video from the Venezuelan TV station TeleSur. The Honduran TV network Cholusat Sur and radio station Radio Globo also provide live streams, although both are frequently pulled off the air by the golpistas.

English speakers can find frequent updates at the excellent Honduras Oye!, Honduras Coup 2009, Honduras Resists and Quotha.

The Facebook page Miguel and Shaun in Honduras also posts frequent updates from a variety of sources in both languages.

The appointment of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to the agreement's Verification Commission was a further sign of the Obama administration's lack of seriousness, given the contrast between the primarily domestic responsibilities of a labor secretary and the need for international experience in a critical diplomatic mission.

On November 3, the golpista-controlled Executive Council of the National Congress declared that it wouldn't convene to discuss the restoration of Zelaya until after the November 29 elections.

At the same time, Micheletti let it be known that he would be assembling a unity government under his own (illegal) authority. Minutes before midnight on November 5, he announced the formation of his unilateral "Government of Unity and National Reconciliation." Its leader was that proven uniter and reconciler: Roberto Micheletti.

The National Resistance Front Against the Coup d'Etat had greeted the expected reinstatement of Zelaya under the accords as a "popular victory over...the pro-coup oligarchy." But the unfolding reality has signaled the agreement's collapse. In its communiqué of November 5, the Front announced that if Zelaya were not reinstated by midnight, it would not recognize the elections. The next day, Zelaya declared the agreement a "failure" and also issued a statement calling for non-recognition of the election, saying, "Elections under dictatorship are a fraud for the people."

The collapse of the Tegucigalpa/San José Accords marks the third breakdown of attempts to reconcile the legitimate government and the coup regime through negotiations. Each time, the failure was due to the intransigence of the golpistas--who seem incapable of making concessions even when it's in their own greater interests to do so.

The coupmakers have exhausted the patience of even bourgeois diplomats. Former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, a member of the Verification Commission, bluntly blamed Micheletti for breaking the agreement. Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, a U.S. client who has been trying to impose a basically pro-oligarchy "compromise" in Honduras, complained that the golpistas "are looking, by means of delaying tactics, to pass the time until the elections come, risking that the future government will not be recognized by some countries."

For its part, the Obama administration has slouched from its confident declaration of success on October 28 to a more typical posture of self-contradiction.

In an alarming November 3 interview with CNN en Español, Thomas Shannon indicated that the U.S. would recognize the Honduran elections even without the restoration of Zelaya--apparently, a reversal of U.S. policy.

Worse, two days later, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint issued a press release claiming that he had "secured a commitment from the Obama administration to recognize the Honduran elections on November 29th, regardless of whether former President Manuel Zelaya is returned to office and regardless of whether the vote on reinstatement takes place before or after November 29th."

DeMint cited personal assurances from both Shannon and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Yet the State Department refused to confirm or deny DeMint's claims, leading to complete confusion about what official U.S. policy actually is--or if it exists.

Over the weekend, Micheletti--apparently under pressure from U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens--announced a "waiting period" before installing his "unity government." However, a meeting between Llorens and representatives of Zelaya and Micheletti got nowhere.

Furthermore, Llorens told Radio America, "The elections will be part of the reality, and will return Honduras to a path to democracy." Even if the U.S. had always intended to recognize the elections, it makes no sense to say so now--this give ups any U.S. leverage with the golpistas and exposes Washington politically. Obama's policy, simultaneously cynical and stupid, arouses nothing but contempt.

If the Honduran coup is, as resistance leader Juan Barahona characterized it, an "experiment in turning back the clock" to the days before the advance of the populist trends in Latin America, then the U.S. has let the experiment go awry. Its tacit backing of the coup is on the verge of becoming explicit, bringing the Obama administration down on the unpopular side of a deeply divisive issue across the hemipshere.

Although few Latin American governments are eager to cross the U.S., most will find it difficult or impossible to support elections conducted under a manifestly illegal dictatorship that is widely hated by the Latin American public. This is the kind of "with us or against us" policy that other governments hoped the Obama administration would abandon.

The situation inside Honduras defies prediction. As Berta Cáceres of COPINH, the indigenous resistance organization, said in a November 1 speech, "[I]f there is a scenario...where they don't reinstate the president, then this country will approach a tremendous situation. Greater repression and violence, maybe even a civil war, which the people don't want, and then more isolation."

One should also add the possibility of international war, given the golpistas' isolation, xenophobia and provocations--particularly against the Brazilian Embassy where Zelaya has stayed since his secret return to Tegucigalpa.

Yet as Cáceres insists, "In all of these scenarios, brothers and sisters, we only have one option. In all of them--in whichever one that happens--it is to struggle. It is to continue in the resistance. It is to march towards the refounding of this country."

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