Zelaya Seeks Greater OAS Honduras Role

Thelma Mejía

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.  Photo: Delmer Membreño, Flickr
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. Photo: Delmer Membreño, Flickr

HAVANA TIMES, Oct 20 (IPS) – The talks in Honduras have stalled over the question of reinstating ousted President Manuel Zelaya, whose delegates have called on the Organization of American States (OAS) to take steps to keep the negotiations from failing.

Zelaya’s representatives complained that the de facto government that replaced him after the Jun. 28 coup is “obstructing” the talks between the two sides.

“Because of the state of obstruction and relative standstill of the talks, we are asking the Permanent Council of the OAS, which is meeting in Washington Wednesday, to take stance on the issue and put out a resolution that would help ensure a solution to the crisis,” said negotiator Víctor Meza, Zelaya’s interior minister.

Zelaya’s negotiators hope that at the meeting on Wednesday, the OAS will reiterate its earlier demands that the deposed president be immediately reinstated, and adopt new sanctions against the de facto regime if it refuses to budge from its positions.

“While we have provided undeniable demonstrations of political will, the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti is putting out unacceptable, insulting proposals,” said Meza, after rejecting a proposal by the de facto government’s negotiators to ask Congress and the Supreme Court to issue reports on the feasibility of Zelaya completing his term, which ends in January.

The reports would be taken into account in the final decision reached in the talks.

Both the Supreme Court and Congress endorsed the coup, after Zelaya was removed from his house at gunpoint by the military and put on a plane to Costa Rica, still in his nightclothes.

Zelaya’s negotiators argued over the weekend that because it is a political matter, it should be up to the legislature to reinstate the ousted president, although the judicial branch could offer a legal opinion on the question, if requested to do so by Congress.

But Micheletti said that because the question has legal aspects, the opinion of the Supreme Court is necessary, since it is in charge of interpreting the constitution.

The two-week talks have reached agreement on seven of the eight points included in the San José Accord set forth by Costa Rican President Óscar Arias in his attempt at brokering a solution in July.  The negotiators say “95 percent agreement” has been achieved.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.  Photo: Delmer Membreño, Flickr
Demanding the return of Manuel Zelaya to the Presidency. Photo: Delmer Membreño, Flickr

Both sides have agreed to forego an amnesty for those involved in the coup and the events that preceded it; to create a truth commission and a commission to follow up on any final agreement; and to go ahead with the Nov. 29 general elections, as scheduled.

Zelaya also agreed not to seek a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution – the catalyst for the coup.

But the talks have now stalled over the touchiest point: the reinstatement of Zelaya,

Micheletti’s delegate Arturo Corrales said the talks have not been broken off, and that “there is a new proposal that must be considered on the basis of elements that are indispensable in order to decide whether or not Zelaya’s reinstatement is appropriate.”

But lawyer Rodil Rivera, who is on Zelaya’s negotiating team, told IPS that Micheletti “has not demonstrated political will, and is using the talks as a delaying tactic.

“They want us to accept that there was no coup d’état, and to sign an agreement recognizing the three branches of power, post-June 28, as legitimate. That is outrageous,” he added.

“Their proposals would appear to be oriented towards gaining time, and time gained by the coup-mongers is time lost to democracy and the country,” said Rivera.

State of siege lifted

On Monday, the de facto regime formally revoked a decree that had suspended a number of civil liberties, such as freedom of expression, association and protest, and had closed down two media outlets sympathetic to Zelaya.

The Radio Globo and Canal 36 stations began broadcasting again Monday, after being shut down for three weeks by the de facto authorities, accused of inciting “insurrection.”

However, a more recent decree, issued 10 days ago, specifies that any media outlet that “incites violence, hatred and sedition” could lose its operating license. Curiously, there have been few protests by the media and press freedom groups over the latest decree.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a team to Honduras over the weekend to examine human rights violations committed since the coup, in a report for the next U.N. General Assembly.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement that the mission would seek the views of all parties during its visit, which is to run until Nov. 7. The names of the mission’s members were not published, for their safety, according to the U.N. office in Tegucigalpa.

Bertha Oliva of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras told IPS that “the delegation’s visit will allow us to provide information on the different kinds of repression that have occurred, and to ask for support to clarify at least 12 cases of serious human rights violations, including murders, injuries and serious threats against human rights activists.”

Two months ago, a fact-finding mission by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reported “a pattern of serious violations under the de facto government, including excessive use of force” against pro-Zelaya protesters, “arbitrary detention, sexual violence, and attacks on the media, as well as several confirmed deaths and possible ‘disappearances’.” It also documented “an absence of effective legal protections from abuse.”

In the meantime, amidst threats by the international community to refuse to recognize the results of the Nov. 29 elections unless an agreement is reached in the talks, preparations for the vote are going ahead in a climate of continued tension and protests.

Meza said Zelaya’s delegates would not sit down at the negotiating table again until
Micheletti presented “a serious, constructive proposal,” while he stressed the urgent need for a peaceful solution, to keep the crisis from getting any worse.