Friday, July 03, 2009

Honduras update

Where journalism fails: The Honduran Supreme Court has issued an arrest warrant for ex-President Zelaya yet the AP reporters didn't seek to clarify what he is to be charged with? They didn't attempt to obtain a copy of the warrant?

Funny, the Spanish language press has no trouble sorting that out. According to this article he is being charged with "betraying the motherland" and "abuse of power". Still no copy of the actual warrant. Maybe tomorrow.

To summarize the latest: The President of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, has concluded his mission unsuccessfuly. Honduras is not going to allow Zelaya back as President and the arrest warrant remains in place. Insulza placed a Saturday morning deadline on ceding power back to Zelaya which current Honduran president Micheletti has stated will be ignored. The OAS, knowing that their polite request was to be ignored, has called an emergency session Saturday afternoon to discuss and perhaps vote on suspending Honduras from the organization. Zelaya has pledged to return to Honduras Sunday. Micheletti has pledged to have him arrested.

Things are getting toxic for the current Honduran regime. Honduras is a poor country and greatly depends on the economic support of foreign nations and international organizations like the World Bank. While most of that support has been placed "on hold" a vote at the OAS to suspend the Central American nation from the group would likely mean longer "suspensions" of foreign aid and greater economic dislocation. As we have seen in the past, economic upheaval in Latin America tends to accompany violence. It would be of no surprise if the coming weeks see violent clashes between government forces and the "peasant class".

On the other hand, there is now no scenario in which Zelaya returns to the office of the Presidency. Were the current leaders to allow that, Zelaya would surely have the military leaders fired and/or tried for the charge of treason which clearly would never be accepted.

Equally, it appears that Micheletti is unlikely to last as president. If for no other reason, he doesn't appear legitimate to the world and the only way to maintain support for the "coup" is to improve conditions in Honduras, something he won't be able to do if economic aid remains frozen. I fully expect that Micheletti is going to seek early elections as a remedy. Elections would be palatable for the international community and under Honduran law neither Micheletti nor Zelaya would be eligble to run. This step could go hand in hand with a promise from the next president (or the current one) to pardon Zelaya.

As a final note, I think it's important that the world's leaders understand that the worst possible step is to isolate Honduras. This is a poor nation with poor politics and few options. Isolating Honduras means greater misery for those who had nothing to do with these events. It would also likely frustrate our efforts to control the drug trade among other interests. The end game for this must be a diplomatic solution that allows the country to continue to survive. An extended embargo of foreign assistance only risks fragmentation and disaster.



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