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Send in the envoy…

25 August 2009

A delegation of foreign ministers from around the Western Hemisphere arrived in Tegucigalpa on Monday, under the auspices of the Organization of American States. Al-Jazeera calls the visitors the “most prominent officials to visit Honduras since [Mel] Zelaya was deposed as president in a military coup on June 28.” Integrating the group were OAS Sec. General José Miguel Insulza as well as foreign ministers from a variety of governments, many from the center/center-right (Canada, Argentina, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Panama). The group met with de facto president Roberto Micheletti on Monday, but after the Supreme Court’s decision that Zelaya should be arrested if he returns to the country, the success of any negotiation still appears very unlikely. Nevertheless, the U.S. State Dept. welcomed the delegation’s visit, even supplying the group with the aircraft that shuttled ministers to Tegucigalpa.

(Hemispheric Brief, 25-August-2009)

They came, they saw… the other guys changed the rules.  Had the United States not dithered around with a ridiculous koan (“when is a coup not a coup?”) there wouldn’t have been much need for this back and forth. Instead of withdrawing recognition of the “de facto government”, or returning to an imperfect democratic state:

The United States was the only government to leave its ambassador in place in Tegucigalpa, and, out of concern for triggering sanctions that would further harm an already beleaguered nation, U.S. officials avoided using the word “coup.”

Washington took the lead in getting Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to mediate the dispute. He has since developed the San José Accord, which calls for the reinstatement of Zelaya, albeit with considerably reduced authority, and new elections in October. But some sectors that are influential in Honduras’ de facto government — namely, powerful business and economic groups — are profoundly mistrustful of Zelaya, whom they fear had plans to model their country after Chávez’s political project in Venezuela. They are also skeptical of assurances of international supervision to transition smoothly to another elected government.

(Michael Shifter, Obama’s Honduras Problem, Foreign Affairs, 24-August-2009)

Do I understand this right?  The golpistas staged a coup  supposedly to protect their constitution.  Although the United States didn’t quite accept that argument, rather than take the negative acts it follows after a coup normally (freezing assets in U.S. banks, removing diplomatic recognition, cutting off all military and financial ties), it dithered back and forth, proposing not to work through the established channels (the OAS), but then pressures an outside actor (Oscar Arias) to hold “talks” … which propose massive legal changes (reducing the presidential perogative) that on the face of it, break both the letter and spirit of that precious constitution.

I leave it to the invaluable Honduras Oye! to sort out the rationale for these movements (or rather, non-movements) but as Greg Weeks, “Two Weeks Notice” keeps reminding us, the whole point is to make the constitutional change of power (scheduled for November) a meaningless exercise in violating the spirit and letter of constitutional democratic governance:

OAS: Let Zelaya back as president

Coup government: No.

OAS: Follow the Arias Accord.

Coup government: No.

OAS: OK, we’ll leave. And then do this again in a few weeks.

Coup government: No hurry.

So the essential question is whether the OAS delegates bring anything new to the table. What pressures are member governments willing to exert on the coup government?

Days since the coup: 58

Days until the scheduled presidential election: 96

Change we can believe in?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 25 August 2009 1:01 pm

    Thanks for drawing attention to Shifter’s article, Richard. I had some fun with it.

  2. 25 August 2009 2:29 pm

    Greg Weeks has been mocking the OAS’ weakness for two months, while failing to put the responsibility for that weakness on the actions of the OAS’ largest member state.

    He has repeatedly refused to say what actions the Latin American members should be taking, or to acknowledge how pointless these actions are unless there is some indication that the U.S. is also prepared to take further action to pressure the coup regime.

    When a commenter cited a report by Mark Weisbrot that the U.S. is blocking an OAS resolution on non-recognition of the Honduran elections, Weeks, who very rarely engages even polite, specific questions in comments, popped in to compared it to Marie Anastasia O’Grady’s work because it quotes unnamed sources. (I’m not a big fan of the use of anonymous sources, but engaging in it does not automatically reduce one’s credibility to that of MAO’G, and making the false equivalence says much more about Weeks’ defensiveness than it does about Weisbrot’s report/analysis.)

    Weeks has provided valuable updates on the Honduran crisis since it began, but he’s failed as a constructive analyst. He wouldn’t call the U.S. Arias-talks tactic the stall that it was when it began (instead viewing it as “grownups have to step in after shiftless, weak OAS fails”). After it became clear that it was U.S. policy to go along with the stall, he continued (to this day) to blame the rest of Latin America, although he does acknowledge that the U.S. should do more.


  1. Honduras coup, Act III, Day 33 « Mercury Rising 鳯女

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