Saturday 31 October 2009

Micheletti and Zelaya reach 'breakthrough'

The details are vague, there is still much to be agreed upon, and the agreement is rife with dubious pre-conditions, yet many who opposed the Micheletti coup are hyperbolic in their response to the latest development. (For background information, see below)

Mark Weisbrot declared that this was "a victory for democracy in the Western Hemisphere." He continued;
This shows that international pressure really matters. Despite the fact that the U.S. blocked stronger action by the Organization of American States, it ultimately had to go along with the rest of the hemisphere […] This shows that Latin America is not going back to the days when U.S.-trained and funded military forces could overturn the will of the electorate.
With so many uncertainties and discouraging preconditions, such blind optimism is, at best misguided, at worst counter-productive.

First of all, whilst the agreement ‘calls for’ a truth and reconciliation commission, this is far from a guarantee of justice. The ‘agreement’ makes no effort condemn the coup or those involved in its implantation. Quite the opposite is true. The details of the agreement that are known legitimise the coup orchestrators. A power-sharing government has been agreed to - this means that those responsible for the coup shall be rewarded with the power and prestige of occupying positions of authority within the Honduran polity. This is a clear indication that, unless there are some significant developments, the truth and reconciliation commission will allow the crimes and human rights abuses of the de facto government to go unpunished. Secondly, the ‘agreement’ itself has to receive support from congress and the supreme court. Such a condition is ludicrous. They are the very bodies that were complicit in the conspiracy against Zelaya in the first place! Seeking their approval further legitimises the coup.

In contrast to the pre-coup circumstances, Micheletti & co. have gained influence through the barrel of a gun, and done so with impunity. Zelaya has lost four months of his presidency and found himself politically weakened. The Honduran people have seen dozens killed, had their human rights severely weakened, been attacked for peaceful protest, and seen their own voices ignored. The people wanted a president to bring social justice. They are left with a man so constrained that it is unlikely that he will be anything other than a popular figurehead for a puppet regime.

Although the situation could be worse, the fight is far from over.

On Sunday, June 28, approximately 200 members of the Honduran military surrounded the presidential palace and forced the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, into custody and then flew him to Costa Rica.
The official justification for the military coup was that Zelaya was to hold a referendum to extend presidential terms beyond a single four-year term, which, it was argued, would be unconstitutional. This continues to be reported as the justification for the coup.
What has tended to be far less widely reported is that constitutional amendments are not uncommon, between the year of its approval, 1982, and 2005, the only years that it was not amended were 1983 and 1992. The constitution itself was approved during a period of heavy U.S. interference.
The genuine motivation for the coup is that Zelaya allied Honduras with the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America (ALBA) - an alternative to Free Trade Area of the Americas. The U.S. feared that Honduras could turn into a 'pacifist state', at the cost of a U.S. military base, as happened in Ecuador.
On July 6th the Honduran military blocked Zelaya’s planned return to Honduras and fired tear gas and live ammunition on protesters, who had initially intended to welcome the Zelaya’s return.
Despite apparent ‘condemnation’ through careful description of the coup as “not legal”, Obama still has not acknowledged the coup d'état as a coup d'état for fear of forcing his own hand. (Acknowledging the coup as such would require stopping all forms of non-humanitarian aid by law). Obama tacitly supported the coup d'état and the coup government financially and militarily.


  1. Good post. US policy towards Latin America has never changed. Some of my lecturers on my last degree used to claim that the US had only interfered in Latin America to exclude Soviet influence - despite the fact that neither Allende in Chile nor the Sandinistas were Communists and the latter only bought Soviet weapons when the US got Europe to place an arms embargo on them. The 'Communist threat' was always just an excuse for using Latin America's population as slave labour for the benefit of US companies - and murdering them by the thousands if they tried to do anything else.
    It was no better than what the Soviets did to people in Czechoslovakia and Hungary - and in fact often much worse, as they killed and tortured far more civilians than the Soviets did.

    Under clinton and Bush 'Plan Colombia' kept the right wing paramilitary death squads and drug traffickers that the army and government there works hand in hand with going by large amounts of military aid. Any change on that under Obama yet?

    In Honduras its back to the 1980s under Obama, with much slicker public relations and a civilian front for military rule but the same basic policy - overthrow elected governments that do annoying things like increase the minimum wage (which will reduce profits for US firms ) and replace them with an alliance of the wealthiest and the military, torturing and murdering anyone who protests against it.

  2. Thank you.

    In terms of military presence, it's getting worse in Colombia, a greater presence and continued diplomatic immunity.

    As for the optimism of Zelaya himself - this seems like the most likely explanation:

    "Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera's Latin America editor, said Zelaya was relying on the political opposition's increasing popularity in the build up to the elections to push congress into agreeing the deal.

    "I'm surprised that he's that optimistic, but there is a calculation here - he's depending on the fact his opponents in congress, the opposition party, are leading very substantially in the polls for the up coming election," she said.

    "The calculation is that unless President Zelaya is reinstated, his supporters will boycott those elections. That will take away legitimacy from those elections and it will make it very difficult for the next government to govern without instability."

    Many countries have warned they would not accept the elections if the June coup is not undone - suggesting that if congress approves the pact to reinstate Zelaya, it would win international recognition for the elections."

    When it comes to Obama's policies in Latin America, there is a lot that needs to be brought to wider attention. I might write another blog post on it in the future. I didn't really cover it in this post as I was afraid that the post would become too diffuse.

  3. I also think that this is great