Honduras: Two Latin American views on the deal to restore Manuel Zelaya

Honduras: The struggle must be more intense than ever

By Ricardo Salgado

October 30, 2009 -- Cubadebate -- Those who claimed several weeks ago that the president would be restored at the beginning of November, though bound by his hands and feet, in order to legitimate the elections, managed to describe the end that we are witnessing now. But let the record show that it is not the end of the coup; this continues in effect, its purposes prevail; the conditions that brought it about continue just as they were on June 28.

The political agreement made under pressure from gringo diplomacy does not cover critical issues, but rather tries to ignore critical matters and highlights the preeminence of oligarchic interests. President Zelaya signed a restoration that can only be interpreted as the victory of the coup and the putschists. The details continue to be thorny: there is as yet no firm schedule for the actions that will take Zelaya back to the presidential palace. Technically the agreement may keep the constitutional president imprisoned for several more days in the Brazilian embassy, since it is the National Congress that must decide the fate of the country.

This same congress committed the crime of forging the president's signature and which decreed his removal. Just a small agreement where the thief decides what kind of justice his victim will receive. The Supreme Court, which ordered the arrest and deportation of Manuel Zelaya Rosales, will have to give its legal opinion in order to guide the congress. Brilliant solution.

There are several commissions to be formed: follow-up, truth and who-knows-what else. Within the framework of this mess the oligarchy wins the recognition of the fraudulent elections [for Nov. 29]; now Zelaya will lend his efforts to reopen the gates of international aid to the now wrecked Honduran economy. In the end there are no guarantees of what is going to happen, neither how nor when. As has happened during these tragic months, uncertainty dominates the landscape. We continue to depend on the tricks of the assassins who invent decrees that they themselves don't respect.

Yesterday, contrasting with the negotiating table, the resistance was brutally repressed. In spite of having the required permits, the police and military decided to give the popular movement a new dose of tear gas, blows and bullets, as a reminder that agreements don't eliminate the repression; they don't eliminate human rights violations.

It would be very ingenuous to think that we have managed to solve something. The military maintain a very autonomous position with respect to the politicians and obey their business masters, who continue with the idea that their interests will be maintained by beating up the people. The repressive decrees signed by Micheletti also remain in effect. The machine of human rights violations is still alive, well oiled and above all, active against the Honduran people.

It seems that the negotiation, at least up until now that I am writing these lines, has forgotten the huge jail that the de facto regime has created. It is worth asking ourselves what will happen now with President Zelaya; will he have the same honour guard? What will be his relationship to the armed forces? And his relationship to Micheletti's congress?

On the other hand, the matter of the crimes against humanity committed by the military with the complicity of the de facto regime and the criminal oligarchy remains pending. Fortunately for the Honduran people, through arrogance or clumsiness, the putschists obviated the issue of the amnesty that Oscar Arias had given them in his original plan.

Very important questions for the Honduran popular movement will come. The coup was precipitated by the just demands of the Honduran people, which continue without an answer from the ruling classes. Perhaps the latter gained time in order to delay the process of change in Honduras.

What is going to happen with the electoral process? There is a fraud that is also not included in the negotiation. Nevertheless, there now will be a lot of pressure for the progressive candidacies to participate in this process. This delicate issue requires a very on-the-mark analysis. Nevertheless, participation in this electoral process, independently of the results, may allow the popular mobilisation to continue.

Now our vision must be long term; we must choose very wisely the actions that we are going to take, without renouncing our principles or our demands. The political situation presents new challenges, and now unity is a critical matter; not for electioneering ends; the conjuncture obliges us to give answers to the people; answers that include giving our people their political space. It is worth recalling here the many arguments that were made, through all of the comrades' contributions, which have generated opinion. It is worth recalling that the action of the resistance has been key to forcing the dark forces of the right to negotiate positions. Without the popular movement this conclusion would not have been necessary.

The protagonism that the people of this country have earned has been a central element for an unusual phenomenon in the history of Latin America to have arisen: an overthrown president is restored to his position. I fervently hope that President Zelaya never forgets that it has been the actions of the people that have won his restoration; that he does not forget his moral debt to the refounding of Honduras.

This is a people's victory, but it is only a triumph on the road of much suffering and despair that will surely come in the search for a new country, where we can all live in peace. The oligarchy and the empire have shown that they will give us nothing. If we want to conquer our freedom we must struggle for it. In this way, the slogans remain.

Today we celebrate, but we stay alert. The struggle is perhaps more intense today than ever. Today many traitors will emerge once again from the shadows; today we must remember our martyrs with more intensity than ever, to whom we owe the conquering of a dream: the independence of Honduras.

Let us remember: the struggle begins here. Let us not make the mistake of mistaking this for our aspirations.

For the assassins, neither forgetfulness nor pardon.

[Ricardo Arturo Salgado is a Honduran sociologist and writer working with rural workers and fishers. He is an active member of the National Resistance Front Against the Coup (FNRG) and resides in Tegucigalpa. This translation first appeared at Diana Barahona's blog. The original Spanish article is at Cubadebate.]

Honduras: An improbable solution

By Atilio A. Boron, translated by Machetera

November 1, 2009 -- Has the political crisis in Honduras been resolved? Although a window of opportunity has opened, every indicator suggests that there is not a lot of room for optimism. It’s worth recalling what we said here before when the coup d’etat took place: that Micheletti would only remain in power as long as he could count on the support, whether active or passive, of Washington. It took four months for the White House to understand the high cost that a coup regime would exact in the region.

Beset by the various problems which he faces in his foreign policy, above all, by the rapid deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the miring of his troops in Iraq, Obama wrested the steering wheel from his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, the main architect of support for the putschists, and sent Thomas Shannon to Tegucigalpa with the task of restoring order in the tumultuous backyard. Shortly afterwards, Micheletti shelved his bravado and meekly accepted what had previously been unacceptable. Of course, Shannon had just laid down the imperial mandate. To sweeten the moment, he publicly expressed his admiration for the two leaders of Honduran democracy: the putschist and the deposed.

Zelaya proposes a three-point program: restoraton, amnesty and a government of national reconciliation. The first will be resolved by the Honduran Congress, the same which enthusiastically validated the coup d’etat and was unsparing in its insults and lies against him. The outcome remains to be seen, but it will not be simple. Amnesty, for whom? For the civilian and military employees of a government which violated human rights and infringed upon every freedom? Or for Zelaya, for crimes he did not commit, such as having the audacity to try to ask his people if they were in favuor of holding a constitutional convention? And of the third, closely tied to the second, the less said the better. Because under current conditions, isn’t a government of national reconciliation simply a passport to oblivion, to forgetfulness, to impunity?

A cursory review of the crisis and its apparent resolution reveals that the putschists can feel satisfied because they preserved their two main objectives: deposing Zelaya, even if he re-assumes the presidency for a few months until the end of his term; and having achieved international recognition for the flawed elections scheduled for November 29, something that Shannon took upon himself to assure.

For its part, the Honduran oligarchy removes itself from the danger of more aggressive action by the United States against its properties and privileges; something that might have occurred if an agreement had not been reached. A stickier sort of control by Washington over their assets and funds in the United States caused them sleepless nights, and Micheletti’s intransigence had become an unnecessary threat to their interests.

For Zelaya, the balance is far more complex, and that is precisely what overshadows the Honduran landscape. His restoration doesn’t remove the underlying causes that provoked the coup d’etat, not in the slightest. Furthermore, as a result, would it not simply validate the results of elections plagued with extremely serious irregularities and a campaign that unfolded under the climate of violence and terror imposed by the putschists? Micheletti has already been beating the war drums. The agreement was barely sealed when he told CNN en Español that once restored to power, “Zelaya and the people who come with him are sure to undertake a campaign of retribution. Only someone who is unaware of Zelaya’s attitude could believe that there will not be consequences.” What will the response be should the government be restored? Amnesty for the putschists, reconciliation with them, hugs for Micheletti?

But Zelaya is far from being the only actor in this drama: How may the heroic militants who risked their lives and their physical integrity to defend their legitimate government react, especially once the possibility of calling a popular referendum to reform the constitution has also been completely ruled out? There are many dead and wounded, much imprisonment and humiliation along the way. Will these men and women who won the streets in Honduras accept the forgetting of so many crimes and the pardon of their victimisers? Also, the one lesson taken by the efforts of the people and social movements over the past four months of resistance is that if they organise themselves and mobilise their influence in the political juncture can be decisive, much more than they realised before. The crisis taught them, brutally, that they can stop being history’s objects and turn themselves into its protagonists.

And perhaps because of that, beyond what has taken place with this accord, they may decide to continue onward with their struggles for a different Honduras, one that does not come about with unjust amnesties or spurious reconciliations.

[Dr. Atilio A. Boron is director of the Programa Latinoamericano de Educación a Distancia en Ciencias Sociales, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Visit Boron's web site at http://www.atilioboron.com.]

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Fri, 11/06/2009 - 15:43


Monday, November 2, 2009


Henry Kissinger said that diplomacy is the “art of restraining power”. Obviously, the most influential ideologue on US foreign policy of the twenty first century was refering to the necessity to “restrain the power” of other countries and goverments in order to maintain the dominant world power of the United States. Presidents in the style of George W. Bush employed “Hard Power” to achieve this goal: weapons, bombs, threats and military invasions. Others, like Bill Clinton, used “Soft Power”: cultural warfare, Hollywood, ideals, diplomacy, moral authority and campaigns to “win the hearts and minds” of those in enemy nations. The Obama administration has opted for a mutation of these two concepts, fusioning military power with diplomacy, political and economic influence with cultural penetration and legal manuvering. They call this “Smart Power”. Its first application is the coup d’etat in Honduras, and as of today, it’s worked to perfection.

During her confirmation hearing before the Senate, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked that “we should use what has been called “smart power”, the complete range of tools that are at our disposal – diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural – choosing the correct tool, or combination of tools, for each situation. With “smart power”, diplomacy will be the vanguard of our foreign policy.” Clinton later reinforced this concept affirming that the “wisest path will be to first use persuasion.”

So, what is intelligent about this concept? It’s a form of politics that is difficult to classify, difficult to detect and difficult to deconstruct. Honduras is a clear example. On one hand, President Obama condemned the coup against President Zelaya while his ambassador in Tegucigalpa held regular meetings with the coup leaders. Secretary of State Clinton repeated over and over again during the past four months that Washington didn’t want to “influence” the situation in Honduras – that Hondurans needed to resolve their crisis, without outside interference. But it was Washington that imposed the mediation process “led” by President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, and Washington that kept funding the coup regime and its supporters via USAID, and Washington that controlled and commanded the Honduran armed forces, involved in repressing the people and imposing a brutal regime, through its massive military presence in the Soto Cano military base.

Washington lobbyists also wrote the San José “agreement”, and in the end, it was the high level State Department and White House delegation that “persuaded” the Hondurans to accept the agreement. Despite the constant US interference in the coup d’etat in Honduras – funding, design, and political and military support – Washington’s “smart power” approach was able to distort public opinion and make the Obama administration come out as the grand victor of “multilateralism”.

What “smart power” achieved was a way to disguise Washington’s unilateralism as multilateralism. From day one, Washington imposed its agenda. On July 1st, spokespeople for the Department of State admitted in a press briefing that they had prior knowledge of the coup in Honduras. They also admitted that two high level State Department officials, Thomas Shannon and James Steinberg, were in Honduras the week before the coup meeting with the civil and military groups involved. They said their purpose was to “impede the coup”, but how, therefore, can they explain that the airplane that forcefully exiled President Zelaya left from the Soto Cano military base in the presence of US military officers?

The facts demonstrate the truth about Washington and the coup in Honduras, and the subsequent successful experiment with “smart power”. Washington knew about the coup before it happened, yet continued to fund those involved via USAID and NED. The Pentagon aided in the illegal forced exile of President Zelaya, and later, the Obama administration used the Organization of American States (OAS) – during a moment at which it was on the border of extinction – as a façade to impose its agenda. The discourse of the Department of State always legitimated the coup leaders, calling on “both parts…to resolve the political dispute in a peaceful way through dialogue.” Since when is an illegal usurper of power considered a “legitimate part” capable of dialogue? Obviously, a criminal actor who takes power by force is not interested in dialoguing. Based on this Washington logic, the world should call on the Obama administration to “resolve its political dispute with Al Qaeda in a peaceful way through dialogue, and not war”.

The Obama/Clinton “smart power” achieved its first victory during the initial days of the coup, persuading the member states of the OAS to accept a 72-hour wait period to allow the coup regime in Honduras to “think through its actions”. Soon after, Secretary of State Clinton imposed the mediation efforts, led by Arias, and by then, so much space had been ceded to Washington, that the US just stepped in and took the reigns. When President Zelaya went to Washington and met with Clinton, it was obvious who was in control. And that’s how they played it out, buying more and more time up until the last minute, so that even if Zelaya returns to power now he will have no space or time to govern.

The people were left out, excluded. Months of repression, violence, persecution, human rights violations, curfews, media closures, tortures and political assasinations have been forgotten. What a relief, as Subsecretary of State Thomas Shannon remarked upon achieving the signature of Micheletti and Zelaya on the final “agreement”, that the situation in Honduras was resolved “without violence”.

Upon signature of the “agreement” this past October 30th, Washington immediately lifted the few restrictions it had imposed on the coup regime as a pressure tactic. Now they can get visas again and travel north, they don’t have to worry about the millions of dollars from USAID, which hadn’t even been suspended in the first place. The US military in presence in Soto Cano can reinitiate all their activities – oh wait, they never stopped in the first place. The Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) of the Pentagon affirmed just days after the coup that “everything is normal with our armed forces in Honduras, they are engaging in their usual activities with their Honduran counterparts.” And Washington is already preparing its delegation of elections observors for the November 29th presidential elections – they are already on their way.

Forget about Cold War torturer Billy Joya who was scheming with the coup regime against the resistance; or the Colombian paramilitary forces sent in to help the coup regime “control” the population. Don’t worry anymore about the sonic warfare LRAD weapon used to torture those inside the Brazilian embassy in an attempt to oust Zelaya from the building. Nothing happened. As Thomas Shannon said, “we congratulate two great men for reaching this historic agreement”. And Secretary of State Clinton commented that “this agreement is a tremendous achievement for the Hondurans.” Wait, for who?

In the end, the celebrated “agreement” imposed by Washington only calls upon the Honduran Congress – the same Congress that falsified Zelaya’s resignation letter in order to justify the coup, and the same Congress that supported the illegal installation of Micheletti in the presidency – to determine whether or not it wants to reinstate Zelaya as president. And only after receiving a legal opinion from the Honduran Supreme Court – the same one that said Zelaya was a traitor for calling for a non-binding poll vote on potential future constitutional reform, and the same one that ordered his violent capture. Even if the Congress’ answer is positive, Zelaya would not have any power. The “agreement” stipulates that the members of his cabinet will be imposed by those political parties involved in the coup, the armed forces will be under the control of the Supreme Court that supported the coup, and Zelaya could be tried for his alleged “crime” of “treason” because he wanted to have a non-binding poll on constitutional reform.

Per the “agreement” a truth commission would supervise its implementation. Today, Ricardo Lagos, ex president of Chile and staunch Washington ally, was announced as the leader of the Honduran Truth Commission. Lagos is co-director of the Board of Directors of the Inter-American Dialogue, a right wing think tank that influences Washington’s policies on Latin America. Lagos also was charged with creating a Chilean version of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), la Fundación Democracia y Desarrollo, to “promote democracy” in Latin America, US-style. Upon leaving the presidency in 2006, Lagos was named President of the Club of Madrid – an exclusive club of ex presidents dedicated to “promoting democracy” around the world. Several key figures involved in currently destabilizing left-leaning Latin American governments are members of this “club”, including Jorge Quiroga and Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (ex presidents of Bolivia), Felipe González (ex prime minister of Spain), Václav Havel (ex president of the Chech Republic) and José María Aznar (ex prime minister of Spain), amongst many others.

In the end, “smart power” was sufficiently intelligent to deceive those who today celebrate an “end to the crisis” in Honduras. But for a majority of people in Latin America, the victory of Obama’s “smart power” in Honduras is a dark and dangerous shadow closing in on us. Initiatives such as ALBA have just begun to achieve a level of Latin American independence from the dominant northern power. For the first time in history, the nations and peoples of Latin America have been collectively standing strong with dignity and sovereignty, building their futures. And then along came Obama with his “smart power”, and ALBA was hit by the coup in Honduras, Latin American integration has been weakened by the US military expansion in Colombia, and the struggle for independence and sovereignty in Washington’s backyard is being squashed by a sinister smile and insincere handshake.

Bowing before Washington, the crisis in Honduras “was resolved”. Ironically, the same crisis was fomented by the US in the first place. There is talk of similar coups in Paraguay, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Venezuela, where subversion, counterinsurgency and destabilization increase daily. The people of Honduras remain in resistance, despite the “agreement” reached by those in power. Their determined insurrection and commitment to justice is a symbol of dignity. The only way to defeat imperialist agression – soft, hard or smart - is through the union and integration of the people.

“The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes longer.” – Henry Kissinger