Thursday, July 23, 2009

Honduras Crisis Talks Dead - Now What?

Talks on Honduras have broken down, and Zelaya and Micheletti seem about as far apart as they ever have been. While the term "postponed" provides a sense of optimism, I suspect it's false optimism. Oscar Arias has failed to negotiate an end to the presidential crisis, and the OAS failed before Arias stepped in. The fact that some within Micheletti's negotiating team were willing to make concessions that Micheletti was not indicated earlier that there may be some cracks forming in the pro-coup faction, but those cracks did not result in any concrete agreements, and Micheletti remains as intransigent as ever.

Arias's claim that the OAS now hasto negotiate a deal is odd, since, as Greg also commented, the OAS already tried and failed, and it's pretty unclear why the OAS will suddenly be able to resolve things quickly. Boz maps out how the reports of what the sticking points in the talks remain unclear (whether Zelaya also rejected the 12-point plan on limiting his powers upon his return, or whether it was just Micheletti who refused the plan due to the return of Zelaya). RAJ believes it was Micheletti, and offers some fair criticisms of Arias's approach:

Arias also made the mistake of getting involved in "negotiating" issues that are
strictly internal-- such as including a requirement that the budget passed by
the de facto regime would be left stand for the remainder of Zelaya's
presidency. This was a red herring thrown in by the Micheletti crowd, and adding
it to the plan simply showed them that Arias would include anything they wanted.
And then they held a press conference and used him rhetorically as a prop.

From the non-Honduras standpoint, Arias's reputation for diplomacy seems to have taken a hit a bit in this whole ordeal. Between the strange comment that the OAS can now take up the issue and his insistence on getting involved purely domestic Honduran affairs as part of the negotiation, he seems to be a bit out of touch with how to have tried to solve this crisis and other alternatives. This isn't to suggest he's inept or that the failure is all his (Micheletti and Zelaya no doubt played major roles as well, to put it lightly), but certainly hopes were riding high that he could bring the situation to a resolution, and not just his failure, but some of his approaches as well, certainly have put a dint his reputation.

More important than Arias's reputation, though, is Honduras itself. It seems fairly likely now that Zelaya will at least try a return to Honduras, saying "only God can stop me," though, as Greg pointed out, there is the small question about the Honduran military, too. The EU has already slashed $90 million in aid, and Hillary Clinton has told Micheletti that, if Zelaya is not returned, the U.S. will also impose severe sanctions. That could theoretically change the playing field a bit, but given Micheletti's intransigence, I find this unlikely. This could end up quietly, or it could end up violently; one can hope it's not the latter, but that possibility is looking increasingly likely, as anti- and pro-Zelaya supporters are already planning public demonstrations that could lead to further conflict.