By Thelma Mejia
HAVANA TIMES, Aug. 26 (IPS) – An Organization of American States (OAS) mission of foreign ministers to Honduras failed to persuade the de facto regime to consider Manuel Zelaya’s reinstatement as president.
During their 24-hour visit, the foreign ministers met with political, social, religious, business and labor leaders, civil society organizations, representatives of the foreign donor community and even military brass.
Their aim was to get the regime that took power when Zelaya was ousted in a Jun. 28 coup to accept the compromise plan crafted by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who brokered talks to try to resolve the political crisis.
The central point of the proposal – called the San Jose Accord – is Zelaya’s return to complete his term, which ends in January, with significantly limited powers. In addition, the November elections would be moved forward and would be held under international supervision, and all political crimes committed during and after the coup would be amnestied.
The OAS delegation, headed by Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza as an observer, also met with supporters of Zelaya and members of his cabinet, and with representatives of the legislature, the judiciary and government oversight bodies. It left the meeting with de facto President Roberto Micheletti to last.
The mission was made up of foreign ministers Bruno Stagno of Costa Rica, Peter Kent of Canada, Kenneth Baugh of Jamaica, Patricia Espinosa of Mexico, Jorge Taiana of Argentina, Carlos Morales Troncoso of the Dominican Republic, and Juan Carlos Varela of Panama.
In a statement read out by Stagno at the end of the visit Tuesday, the delegation said it “regrets that it was not possible on this occasion to obtain the backing of the San Jose Accord.”
According to the statement, civil society sectors that back the regime expressed to the delegation, “fear of the consequences that (Zelaya’s) return to power could have for the peace and social stability of the country.”
Zelaya’s supporters, meanwhile, expressed concern over human rights violations committed since the coup and worries about their “physical integrity,” the communiqué added.
Stagno reported that Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro, who has become the deposed president’s spokeswoman, said he was willing to sign on to every point in the San Jose Accord “immediately, if necessary.”
“In all of its meetings, the mission clearly expressed that the San Jose Accord, internationally recognized as the basis for national reconciliation, is the immediate, balanced and viable road to achieve the restoration of the democratic order in Honduras,” the statement said.
As well as rejecting Zelaya’s reinstatement, the de facto authorities raised objections to the proposed amnesty.
Micheletti expressed his gratitude for the visit and said that “at last they came to listen to the people and the organizations, since no president…has the right to do whatever he feels like with this country.”
Micheletti Doesn’t Fear Isolation
Referring to the international community’s unanimous refusal to recognize the de facto regime, and to measures such as the cancellation of aid, Micheletti also said “we are not afraid of anybody’s embargo; we have calmly analyzed what we are facing, and we are going to continue forward.
“They have sent us all kinds of messages, but unless they want to send in troops, which should not happen, no one is going to impose anything on us,” he said.
Honduras will hold its general elections on Nov. 29 as scheduled, he added: “We will hold them, whether or not the world recognizes us.”
With regard to Zelaya’s return, “I told them (the ministers) that I am willing to step down, because I did not seek this post.”
He said he had no problem with the appointment of a third person to complete Zelaya’s term. But that option does not form part of the San Jose Accord.
Stiffer Sanctions Could be Coming
The president of the national association of industrialists, Adolfo Facussé, one of the regime’s most powerful supporters, told IPS that Mexican Foreign Minister Espinosa, “in the name of (U.S. Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton, told us that they were going to freeze accounts and put an embargo on business deals, as well as decertify Puerto Cortés,” the country’s main port, which is key to trade with the United States.
The Mexican Foreign Ministry denied the claim.
The delegation’s statement also said that “In the interest of promoting a spirit of consensus, the mission also calls on all actors to refrain from making declarations or expressing opinions that are contrary to the spirit of the San Jose Accord.”
Israel Salinas, a leader of the Resistance Front against the Coup d’Etat, told IPS that the foreign ministers’ visit was one of the “last resorts” for pressing for Zelaya’s return.
But “since the results were not favorable, we will prepare to take new political decisions,” he said.
Abuses Up the Pressure
The pressure on the regime has been stepped up in the last few weeks, with an Aug. 17-21 fact-finding mission by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which reported “a pattern of serious violations under the de facto government, including excessive use of force, arbitrary detention, sexual violence, and attacks on the media, as well as several confirmed deaths and possible ‘disappearances’.” The IACHR also documented “an absence of effective legal protections from abuse.”
“Given the ongoing abuses documented by the commission and the lack of effective legal protection, it is urgent that the international community exert concerted and effective pressure to restore democratic government in Honduras,” Human Rights Watch Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco said after the visit.
“While the OAS has yet to show results in resolving Honduras’s democratic crisis, the commission has demonstrated the crucial role that this regional mechanism can play when a country’s rule of law is badly undermined,” he added.
The U.S. State Department announced Tuesday that it was cancelling “non-emergency, non-immigrant visa services in the consular section” of the embassy in Honduras. The measure went into effect Wednesday.
Note: The Honduras situation is being closely followed in Cuba with daily reports in the local newspapers and TV news, which emphasize the protests by supporters of President Zelaya and the repression being carried out by the armed forces.