US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced July 7 that Costa Rican President Oscar Arias will serve as international mediator in the Honduran crisis. Clinton made the announcement at the State Department after meeting privately with ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. She said Zelaya as well as the Honduras’ de facto president, Roberto Micheletti, agreed to recognize Arias as mediator. Clinton also said she had spoken to Arias that day, and noted that he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for helping broker an end to Central America’s civil wars. “He is the natural person to assume this role,” she told reporters.
In Moscow, President Barack Obama reiterated his administration’s support for Zelaya. “America cannot and should not seek to impose any system of government on any other country, nor would we presume to choose which party or individual should run a country,” Obama said in a speech in the Russian capital. “And we haven’t always done what we should have on that front.”
He emphasized: “Even as we meet here today, America supports now the restoration of the democratically elected president of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies. We do so not because we agree with him. We do so because we respect the universal principle that people should choose their own leaders, whether they are leaders we agree with or not.” (AP, July 7)
However back in Washington, when asked whether the US views Zelaya’s return as central to the restoration of democratic order in Honduras, Clinton only said that she didn’t want to “prejudge” the talks before they began. “There are many different issues that will have to be discussed and resolved,” Clinton said. “But I think it’s fair to let the parties themselves, with President Arias’s assistance, sort out all of these issues.” (NYT, July 7)
US withdraws recognition?
Despite leading efforts to resolve the crisis, the US has remained the one government in the western hemisphere not to withdraw diplomatic recognition of Honduras. However, on July 7, the chancellor (foreign minister) of the Zelaya government, Patricia Rodas, told the Venezuela-based TeleSur network that the US has formally cut off recognition and privileges of Honduran ambassador Roberto Flores Bermúdez, who has remained loyal to the coup government.
“Today we received word that the Department of State has canceled the participation of the golpista ambassador who betrayed out country, and we have been notified that the position of President Obama is that the only government it will accept as legitimate is that of Manuel Zelaya”, said Rodas, who accompanied Zelaya to Washington. (TeleSur, July 7)
Coup regime apologizes for racial slur
Meanwhile, the newly appointed chancellor of the coup regime, Enrique Ortez Colindres, was shamed into apologizing for his use of the slur “negrito” against President Obama after the US envoy to Honduras protested it as a “disrespectful and racially insensitive” insult. “As the official and personal representative of the president of the United States of America, I convey my deep outrage about the unfortunate, disrespectful and racially insensitive comments by Mr. Enrique Ortez Colindres about President Barack Obama,” US Ambassador Hugo Llorens said in a statement. “Statements like this are deeply outrageous for the American people and for me personally. I am shocked by these comments, which I condemn in the strongest terms.”
Ortez Colindres offered his apology as he took the oath of office with other new de facto ministers at the presidential palace. “Please accept my profound apologies and my sincere expressions of friendship directed at this great nation that is the United States of America, which allows me to contribute in the best way to a happy understanding between that great country and the democracy that is the republic of Honduras,” the de facto official said. (AFP, July 8)
US right backs coup
In defiance of world opinion, the US corporate right is scrambling to build political support for the coup regime. Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute told Voice of America that the Honduran Supreme Court and Congress believed Zelaya had put the country in immediate peril. “I don’t think they needed to wait until he actually made himself into a dictator,” he said. “I think they were entitled to take action against a budding dictator. But even if they weren’t, it seems to me that it is not so clear that he is in the right that the United States should be meddling in Honduras’ affairs.”
For balance, VoA quoted Jennifer McCoy of the Carter Center in Atlanta, who condemned the coup in lukewarm terms: “Even if the military was acting to carry out a police action, I think the questions coming from the international community are why would the military act instead of the police? And why would they take him out of the country instead of following a procedure inside the country?” (VOA, July 3)
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) asked rhetorically: “On what basis does the [Obama] administration demand Zelaya’s reinstatement? His removal from office was no more a coup than was Gerald Ford’s ascendence to the Oval Office or our newest colleague Al Franken’s election to the Senate.” (Minnesota Independent, July 7)
Protests and counter-protests continue
Tens of thousands of Hondurans again marched in Tegucigalpa to demand Zelaya’s return to power July 7. Amongst other destinations, the march passed by Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP) to denounce the elite business sector’s support of the coup. The march was led by Honduran First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, who came out of hiding for the first time since soldiers burst into the presidential home on the morning of June 28 and forced her husband out of the country, at gun-point.
Zelaya supporters in Honduras charge that the conservative Movement for Peace and Democracy (MPD) has been paying poor residents of Tegucigalpa to attend its rallies in support of Micheletti and the coup. Pro-Zelaya activists told the US-based group Rights Action that MPD-chartered buses are coming into poorer neighborhoods, with organizers paying residents between 100 and 200 lempiras ($5-10) to participate in the pro-coup rallies.
Activists with the Committee for the Defense of the Environment in the Siria Valley, Morazan department, told Rights Action that employees of the local San Martín mine have been bussed into Tegucigalpa for pro-coup rallies, with mine operator Entremares paying for the transportation and meals. Entremares, a subsidiary of Goldcorp Inc., faces local opposition to the open-pit mine over environmental concerns, including contamination of water sources with cyanide. (Rights Action, July 8)