Monday, November 02, 2009

The Real Winner in Honduras: The United States?

This is from Minneapolitan Joe Shansky on the ground.

Written by Joseph Shansky
Sunday, 01 November 2009

Never underestimate the capabilities of the slightest American muscle-flexing.

After deliberately failing to use its massive economic and diplomatic influence in the tiny Central American country, the US has reportedly given the international community reason to breathe a sigh of relief in what Hillary Clinton is calling an “historic agreement”. According to the US, the Honduran governmental power struggle has been resolved, and an agreement for President Manuel Zelaya to be reinstated has been reached.

All thanks to a breezy State Department intervention that could have come four months, twenty-six lives, hundreds of disappearances, and thousands of random detentions earlier for Honduran citizens. Instead they let it play out like an internal civil disagreement while watching from above until the time was politically opportune to step in.

In other words, the two children who were bickering in what Henry Kissinger famously dubbed “our backyard” have been rightfully scolded, and forced by Uncle Sam to make nice.

But the details of what is now being called the Guaymuras Accords are messy. They involve a series of conditions and fine print designed to continue the regime’s now-familiar tactic of delaying real progress through semantics and by creating more legal headaches. At the same time, any pressure on the US to fight for a constructive return of Zelaya’s presidential powers is now gone.

Despite coup leader Roberto Micheletti’s claim that his de-facto government has made “significant concessions” in the accords, the real concessions have come from the other side. All one needs to do is imagine how Zelaya’s supporters and coup opponents would have reacted soon after the coup to the type of “power-sharing” agreement that is currently being celebrated. It would have been considered laughable.

These are the basic terms both sides have agreed to::

- Creation of a government of national reconciliation that includes cabinet members from both sides

- Suspension of any possible vote on holding a Constitutional Assembly until after Jan. 27, when Zelaya's term ends

- A general amnesty for political crimes was rejected by both sides

- Command of the Armed Forces to be placed under the Electoral Tribunal during the month prior to the elections.

- Restitution of Zelaya to the presidency following a non-binding opinion from the Supreme Court and approval of Congress

- Creation of a Verification Commission to follow up on the accords, consisting of two members of the Organization of American States (OAS), and one member each from the constitutional government and the coup regime.

- Creation of a Truth Commission to begin work in 2010

- Revoke international sanctions against Honduras following the accords

The accords give President Zelaya some of his original rights as the democratically-elected president of Honduras. But who knows when? As of October 31, there have already been several contradictory statements coming out from Micheletti’s team. One of his negotiators said that since Congress would not be in session before the elections, it is now unlikely that Zelaya would be returned to any kind of power before that date.

If he is, it hinges on approval by the same Congress that approved his seizure and relinquishes his executive power over the armed forces. In the “power-sharing” agreement, the coup government would retain control over the military, a critical advantage.

It also dismisses amnesty for political crimes on both sides, but at the moment Zelaya is the one facing a mountain of trumped-up charges, thanks to a summer of legal proceedings which took place under an illegitimate government and a shady judicial system.

Another obstacle to a rightful reinstatement may be the Honduran Supreme Court, which has consistently interpreted constitutional law at its leisure throughout the coup. For example, from Sept. 22 through Oct. 19, five constitutional rights were suspended under a decree by the coup government. These included personal liberty, freedom of expression, freedom of movement, habeas corpus, and freedom of association. This was based on a clause in the 1982 Constitution which allowed for such restrictions in states of emergency, and is a perfect example of why Hondurans are demanding a new Constitution.

The Honduran Supreme Court, which has been described by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs as “one of the most corrupt institutions in Latin America”, can give a non-binding opinion regarding Zelaya’s return which Congress can then take or leave. However, this process takes time, again indicating stalling on the part of the coup regime.

Perhaps most importantly, the push for a popular Constituent Assembly during his term has also been dropped by Zelaya and his negotiating team. The Constituent Assembly would have created a body to rewrite the 1982 Honduran Constitution in newly democratic terms. On June 28, the day that Zelaya was forcibly removed from power and ejected from the country, Hondurans were scheduled to vote on a non-binding referendum for a Constituent Assembly. The outcome was to determine whether or not to then have a later vote to rewrite the outdated 1982 Constitution, which caused much debate on the coup in the first place. Subsequent polls have indicated a majority of Hondurans support this reform. In the big picture, this is the real change for the future which thousands of Hondurans have been fighting for in the streets.

Now, what the Guaymuras Accords actually do most is create a space for the United States to recognize the legitimacy of the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for November 29. With National Party front-runner Pepe Lobo likely to win (thanks to a campaign season in which any independent voices were sharply silenced by media censorship), the US also likely secures another puppet in the region who will be opposed to the progressive social, economic and political reforms being articulated and demanded by the country’s social movements. This also serves to counter the region’s growing independence from Washington’s political and economic influence.

Furthermore, throughout the entirety of the coup, neither Secretary of State Clinton nor President Obama (surely occupied with political concessions of his own at home) have acknowledged the repression and violence perpetrated by the Micheletti government and Honduran military in its wake. And they still refuse to do so.

So the actual power returned to Zelaya may be symbolic at best. But it’s extremely important for another group involved- the Resistance movement all around the country. Since the announcement on October 30 of Zelaya’s pending reinstatement, people here have triumphantly taken to the streets in a manner unseen since…actually, two weeks ago when Honduras qualified for the 2010 World Cup.

The unity of the Resistance has put continual pressure on the coup government. Its mobilization constantly put Honduras into the world spotlight, and highlighted the violent reaction of a surprised regime. Undoubtedly the prospect of Zelaya’s return would never have occured without the leadership of the Resistance. The psychological effects of bringing their President back in any way after more than 125 days in the streets mark a clear victory for the movement.

And of course there are enormous differences between the (relatively) bloodless Honduran coup and the devastating Kissinger days of the 1970s, which led to tens of thousands of CIA-sponsored murders and disappearances in countries like Chile and Argentina.

Still, the bottom line remains the same. Military coups in Latin America are not a thing of the past yet, and their outcome can be strongly influenced, in fact practically determined, by the US. Time will tell if the events in Honduras were an isolated affair, or if they indicate the type of reaction we will be seeing to the new age of leftist revolutions and social movements in Latin America.

What is clear now is that after months of refusing to take real diplomatic action, the State Department has found a way to not only save face internationally, but to manipulate the outcome to make it appear to be a foreign policy win for the US.

Though it’s still early in the proceedings, a clear victor has already emerged in the Honduran stand-off.

Joseph Shansky works with Democracy Now! En Español and has been reporting from Tegucigalpa. He can be reached at



Anonymous said...

I am happy to hear that Zelaya and his supporters won't get off for murdering Micheletti's nephew last week or kidnapping the Defense Minsiters 81 year old diabetic father. It's about time the Hondurans punished these political crimes.

Frank Partisan said...

FJ: You're off topic, but anyway.

I heard on BBC, which hardly pro-Zalaya, that the murder wasn't related to politics.

What about the 26 people, killed by the military?

The truth is that the resistance is hampered by nonviolence. The leadership refused to arm.

I don't know about the kidnapping. I didn't hear anything.

Anonymous said...

Off topic? Zelaya murders the president's nephew and kidnaps the Defense Minister's father, and these "crimes" are "unrelated" to the political conflict????

Where do you live, in a bubble?

If 26 Zelaya supporters have been killed, how many family members and/or supporters of the defacto government have been killed? Zelaya's nephew's body wasn't the ONLY one recovered in a ditch.

You state that the resistance has "been hampered by nonviolence". It sounds to me like you support the thuggery demonstrated by the Zelayistas. If that is the actual case, then you'll have no room to complain when they lay another 10,000 Zelayaistas in their graves, which I sincerely hope will happen if they keep their nonsense up.

Ducky's here said...

Today's poem

Little Devils
-Pablo Neruda

"I’ve seen them: the fixers

setting up their advantages,

the arriviste’s alibis,

rich cheapskates spreading their nets,

poets drawing their boundaries;

but I’ve played with clean paper

in the open light of day.

I’m a journeyman fisherman

of living wet verses

that break through the veins;

it’s all I was good for.

I never contrived opportunities

out of mere vainglory

or a schemer’s perversity;

whatever I say in my songs

is more than benign propaganda.

true, I did it all clumsily

and for that I beg pardon:

now leave me alone with my ocean:

I was born for a handful of fishes.

Ducky's here said...

I'm shocked by the intimation that the State Department may have acted cynically.

I suspect Farmer may get his wish and we will be silent.

Anonymous said...

I'm not the one who is "unconditionally" wishing that the opposition had used MORE violence in achieving it's aims, mr. ducky.

Ren states that he heard that the killing of Micheletti's nephew wasn't political. The truth is that nobody knows yet, as the crime investigation has just begun. Well, there he is, lying in a ditch with his hands tied behind his back. THAT doesn't sound much like an "accidental" death to me. It looks very much like a political assassination. But you decide.

And Ren, you claim that 26 Zelaya supporters were killed by the government. Details please, tell us who they were, how they died, and lay out proof that the accused were "murdered" (and not shot while committing acts of violence) by "government killers with political motives" for offing them.

Anonymous said...

If the defacto government were as murderous and cycnical as you stated, Ren, one must wonder why they ever let Zelaya leave the country to begin with, why they just didn't stand him up against a wall and shoot him?

They must either be incredibly stupid OR they aren't the bloodthirsty murderes you accuse them of being. I subscribe to the later theory.

SecondComingOfBast said...

"If the defacto government were as murderous and cycnical as you stated, Ren, one must wonder why they ever let Zelaya leave the country to begin with, why they just didn't stand him up against a wall and shoot him?"

They should have. Actually, they should have arrested him for treason, and then tried him. They would surely have no trouble finding the evidence to convict him.

THEN they should have stood him up against a wall and shot him.

Anonymous said...

The military wanted to be "merciful" and just let Zelaya go. This near-revolution is the "result" of their attempted "leniency".

I do give Zelaya credit. He's got chutzpah!

Frank Partisan said...

FJ: Where is it documented that the oligarchy killed 26? Read the post.

BBC said that Micheletti's death, is unrelated to politics. Even if it was, it would have been done by rogue elements. The leadership of the resistance preached nonviolence.

Why didn't they just kill Micheletti? The US wouldn't let them. The US doesn't want civil war in Central America. Obama is in the mold of Bush41. He wants stability. That is why someone as Page, heads DOD.

Zelaya gave up every important point to the oligarchy in negotiations.

Pagan: That constitution was written by John Negroponte. Treason? Starting a literacy program.

Ducky: Thanx for the poem.

On the left, many believe military use is the only tactic the US supports. They follow government public statements, as those who believe the US will invade Iran and North Korea. They don't have any idea about flooding a market with cheap goods.

On the right, they also don't understand diplomacy etc. Any analysis based on guessing motives (Limbaugh) boils down to conspiracy theory.

Anonymous said...

Where is it documented that the oligarchy killed 26? Read the post.

That wasn't the question.

BBC said that Micheletti's death, is unrelated to politics. How do they know? Has the crime been solved?

Even if it was, it would have been done by rogue elements. That doesn't absolve the Leftist movement of responsibility.

The leadership of the resistance preached nonviolence. Did they? Does Zelaya's traditional “homeland, restitution or death" speech ending sound non-violent to you?

Why didn't they just kill Micheletti? The US wouldn't let them. Then why hasn't Zelaya been reinstated? What's taking them so long?

Ducky's here said...

one must wonder why they ever let Zelaya leave the country to begin with, why they just didn't stand him up against a wall and shoot him?


Really Farmer, that is so Night of the Long Knives. No need to do anything that gauche when you have Obama's State Dept. running interference.
They may even get a trade agreement and get to make stuff for Wal-Mart now that they've proven they can pull off a coup without scaring the horses.

Anonymous said...

The only coup being attempted in Honduras is being carried out by Manuel Zelaya w/an assist from Hugo Chavez and his ALBA friends via the OAS, UN and the Clintoon State Dept.

Nevin said...

What is happening in various South American nations is that, there is an internal fight between the poor indigenous people versus the rich oligarchy.... US is supporting the rich oligarchs...

(this of course is a huge generalization but nevertheless is the truth)

Frank Partisan said...

Nevin: I agree.

Ducky: Your statement is the type that neither the extreme left or right comprehend.

FJ: Zelaya is still hiding in the embassy of Brazil.

I have another post coming tonight with an update.

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