Honduras: maquila owners call for intervention

As of Oct. 4 Hondurans’ free speech and assembly rights remained suspended under a 45-day state of siege declared by de facto president Roberto Micheletti a week earlier. The general secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS), Chilean diplomat José Miguel Insulza, was scheduled to visit Tegucigalpa on Oct. 7 with a delegation of about 10 foreign ministers to negotiate a resolution to the crisis that began more than 100 days earlier with a June 28 military coup against President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales. The deposed president has been staying in the Brazilian embassy since his surprise return to the country on Sept. 21. (Agence France Presse, Oct. 4)

Plans for a resolution generally center on the San José Accord, a proposal from Costa Rican president Oscar Arias for Zelaya to return to office until his term expires on Jan. 27 but with a coalition government and an agreement not to pursue calls for a constituent assembly to rewrite the 1982 Constitution. Zelaya has generally agreed to the plan, but the grassroots movement against the coup rejects any compromise on the constituent assembly.

A new variant of the San José Accord is being promoted by Adolfo Facussé, president of the National Association of Industries of Honduras (ANDI). He claims his proposal is backed by other powerful business owners and that Micheletti has shown interest. Under the “Facussé Plan,” Micheletti would step down “with honor” and Zelaya would return to office but would stay under house arrest while awaiting trial on corruption charges. The proposal also includes a multinational force with troops from Canada, Colombia and Panama, all countries with conservative governments closely allied to the US. The occupying force would “be charged with watching out that [Zelaya] complies” with the agreement, Facussé told the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada in an interview published on Sept. 30. The foreign troops would “strictly limit the capacities of this gentlemen,” he said. “[T]hey’ll just come to help and then will go back home.”

The US has identified Facussé as an important backer of the coup. In August he called for resistance to international economic sanctions imposed after the coup, “because it’s better to eat tortillas and beans for year than to return to the situation we were in before, under the influence of Mr. Chávez”—a reference to leftist Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez Frías, an ally of Zelaya. Since August, however, owners of the country’s maquiladoras (tax-exempt plants assembling products for export) have grown increasingly nervous about the economic situation. Facussé himself was deported from the US when he attempted to visit Miami on Sept. 12.

In the La Jornada interview Facussé insisted that he was friends with Zelaya and had backed Honduras’ participation in Petrocaribe, Chávez’s system for supplying discounted Venezuelan oil to the Caribbean Basin. “I invited the Venezuelans here,” Facussé said. “I supported Zelaya on the Bolivarian Alliance”—the Chávez-initiated Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America trade bloc (ALBA, formerly the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America). The La Jornada correspondent noted that Facussé, who is of Palestinian origin, is related to the late Schafik Handal, a leader of the leftist Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN), which now holds the presidency of El Salvador. (LJ, Sept. 30)

In an article posted at the website of the US magazine The Nation on June 30, just two days after the coup, New York University professor Greg Grandin wrote that what the US government “might be angling for in Honduras could be the ‘Haiti Option.’ In 1994 Bill Clinton worked to restore Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide after he was deposed in a coup, but only on the condition that Aristide would support IMF [International Monetary Fund] and World Bank policies.” (The Nation, June 30) Aristide’s restoration in 1994 included a military occupation by more than 20,000 US troops. The US occupied Haiti again in March 2004 after Aristide’s second removal from office, but the US troops were replaced in June 2004 by a multinational force headed by Brazil. The force remains there five years later.

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 4

See our last posts on Honduras and Central America.