Hardball with Honduras Honchos

By Thelma Mejía

Zelaya's wife Xiomara Castro, center, is playing a lead role in the daily protests.
Zelaya's wife Xiomara Castro, center, is playing a lead role in the daily protests.

HAVANA TIMES, Aug. 29 (IPS) – With the roads to return to democratic normality practically closed in Honduras, two months after the coup d’état, threats have leaked from Washington about “more severe measures” being taken in an effort to weaken the régime of Roberto Micheletti.

After the visit this week of foreign ministers of the Organization of American States (OAS), led by Secretary-general Miguel Insulza, was frustrated in its attempt to find a way out of the crisis, supporters of Micheletti had no doubts that sanctions against Honduras would be coming from the United States.

The possible formulas for solution collided against the refusal of the régime to accept the return to his post of overthrown President Manuel Zelaya, even through a conditioned approach.  As the spokespeople of the de facto government stated, they do not consider him a “reliable person.”

The hardening of the posture of the régime has its counterpart in the firm positions of those fighting for the return of Zelaya to the presidency.  Among the opposition’s plans are continued street demonstrations and a boycott of the election process originally set to conclude with a vote on November 29.

That political campaign to give a facelift to the national government, parliament and local authorities is scheduled to begin on August 31, according to the calendar of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), the entity responsible for administrating the process.

However, added to the boycott threat have already come warnings from several governments in Latin America and other regions that they will not recognize the outcome of elections.

In addition growing pressure from Washington could be near, as one US official noted on Thursday that new measures could be taken against Honduras, though he did not provide details.

It was leaked to the press that the United States government is prepared to formally declare that Zelaya was deposed on June 28 by a “military coup d’état,” [Washington’s failure to do so has been seen as back door support for the coup] which legally implies the automatic and immediate suspension of economic assistance in diverse areas and the withholding of tens of millions of dollars.

Up to now, the Obama administration had only suspended military assistance valued at $18 million, as well as interrupted the issuing of new visas for Hondurans who want to travel to the US.

Guillermo Matamoros, a member of the Honduran Association of Maquilas (free trade zones for the manufacture of export products), said to IPS that if Washington makes this formal declaration of a “military coup d’état,” the economic situation of the country would get complicated and “it will be necessary to get ready for scenarios that are not at all favorable.”

Coup Leaders Prefer Embargo to Zelaya

Adolfo Facussé, a Honduran industrial leader, was definitive when pointing out that “these scenarios were discussed with the OAS foreign ministers, but we told them that we would prefer to endure the embargo, to eat every other day, before giving into pressures for the return of former president Zelaya, who no one in Honduras now trusts.”

“Former president Zelaya can say yes (that he will return) to anyone he speaks to among the international community, but they don’t know him; we – on the other hand – know that he is incapable of respecting any pact or agreement,” Facussé said to IPS.

The visit of the foreign ministers of the OAS had the objective of reviving the proposal of Costa Rica President Óscar Arias that, among its 11 points, called for the conditional return of Zelaya to the presidency, as well as amnesty, the establishment of a truth commission and commissions on the verification and monitoring of agreements.

In addition it called for a tacit renouncement of any intention to reform the constitution; that last point was what the coup leaders used to justify Zelaya’s abrupt destitution.

Nevertheless, the OAS mission camp up empty-handed, as the illegitimate government refused to accept conditional return and much less amnesty for what it considered a violation of “domestic legislation and the Constitution.”

Upon his return to Washington, OAS Secretary-General Miguel Insulza stated that dialogue had still not broken down and that this week a negotiating mission designated by Micheletti left for the United States to continue talks aimed at a solution.

This time, they bring along the option of forming a conciliation junta that would come out of negotiations whereby neither Micheletti nor Zelaya will figure in the government.  IPS learned that this proposal enjoys the sympathy of several countries of the OAS, which announced that Zelaya will come to its Washington headquarters next week.

Victor Meza, minister of the interior of the deposed Zelaya government, told IPS that this is one of the last efforts of the OAS to find a negotiated settlement to the conflict, and “we are hoping that this resonates among the coup forces.”

Meza noted that two months after the coup d’état, impatience is beginning to have an affect among Zelaya sympathizers, but suggested “people should not give up; they should continue taking to the streets like they have up to now, surprising even the junta itself and many of us who were not accustomed to seeing protests in Honduras last more than three days or a week.”

For the minister of the deposed administration, the return of President Zelaya is “vital” for the restoration of democratic order.  Conversely, “patience has its limits, and other non-democratic methods can arise that can generate political violence.”

Nevertheless, political analyst Matías Funes sees the return of Zelaya as being difficult.  “The nation is too polarized, and his return does not guarantee stability; to the contrary, things could become worse.  I believe it’s necessary to bet on the elections and to negotiate for greater openings for change in the political class, in this current situation that will unlikely repeat itself,” he indicated.

In these two months since he was forcibly removed by the government, Zelaya has carried out intense international lobbying to denounce the coup d’état and the régime that replaced him. Likewise, the National Resistance Front has not left the Honduran streets for even a day; at the same time, creative forms of resistance have been generated, such as cultural evenings, car caravans and peaceful sit-ins in the main institutions of the country.

In their protests, they have not only shown their opposition to the country’s traditional political elites but also the need for a more participative form of democracy.  In these protests, at least four demonstrators have died at the hands of forces of repression and many others have been beaten in the evictions perpetrated by combined civil police and army operations.

A Havana Times translation of the original article published in Spanish by IPS.

The situation in Honduras, two months after the coup that deposed President Manuel Zelaya, continues to be top of the news in Cuba. The local media stresses the daily protests against the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti, which they denounce for the violent repression carried out against the demonstrators.