Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Negotiating an End to the Presidential Crisis in Honduras (with Bonus Humor, Unintentional and Intentional)

Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya and his replacement, Roberto Micheletti, have both agreed to negotiate an end to the presidential crisis since Zelaya's ouster via a military-led coup a few weeks ago. This is really important, simply because things are as ugly as they can be now, between the OAS's decision on Honduras, the growing violence, and the generally-overlooked divisions within the basic functioning organs of the Honduran state that the coup has caused. My skepticism over the outcome (due in no small part to Micheletti's intransigence) is tempered by the fact that Costa Rican president (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Oscar Arias will do the mediating. Arias won the Peace prize in 1987 for negotiating an end to the conflicts in Central America in the 1980s, and began working towards a negotiation between Zelaya and Micheletti last week. If there's a statesperson who has the legitimacy and the skill to deal with this situation, it's Arias.

In more Honduras-related news, Greg (who has been excellent in his coverage and analysis of this whole thing) has some comments on the Supreme Court's defense of the coup. As he points out once again (and as the Court itself fails to directly address), the vote that would have happened on June 28 would not have convened a Constitutional commission; it was to determine if a vote on whether to convene a commission should appear on the 2010 ballot. This has been one of the biggest weaknesses in the anti-Zelaya camp's defense: he wasn't creating a National Assembly. He was asking the Honduran populace to vote on whether they wanted to vote on convening an Assembly in 2010. There is nothing to guarantee that that 2010 vote would have resulted in a "yes" vote that would then convene the assembly - it could of course go down to failure. This is one of the major reasons why insistence that the Congress/Court/military had no other option than a military coup. Yes, they did: among other things, they could have let the vote go through on the 28th, and then spent the next year and a half mobilizing their resources and the population to work their hardest to bring the vote to a defeat next year. Regardless of whether they felt Zelaya's actions were legal or not, the coup was not the only solution here. (Though, in a possibly related story, the fact that 52.2% of Hondurans polled believe it's OK to break the law when fighting crime may be one cultural indicator as to why the support of the coup in Honduras has been so strong).

Greg also points out the hilarity of the Court's instruction to the military "to detain Zelaya because he was a threat to flee." Getting beyond the absurdity of the notion that Zelaya was about to abandon his post (because clearly, ever since the coup, he's shown he definitely does not want to be in Honduras), it's beyond ridiculous and risible to suggest that the only way to deter a president who wants to flee the country is to force him out of the country at gunpoint. That's some sound logic and problem-solving, there.

Finally, whatever one thinks of Zelaya, you have to admire the man's sense of humor:

“What have Latin American presidents learned from Honduras?” [Zelaya] asked Mrs. Clinton.
As the secretary shook her head, Mr. Zelaya smiled and said, “To sleep with our clothes on and our bags packed.”