Honduras: pressure builds on coup regime as Mesoamerican summit opens

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, hosting the 11th regional Tuxtla Group Summit in the Pacific coast resort of Tamarindo, called for “absolute ostracism” of the de facto government in Honduras until it accepts his proposed “San José Accord”—a compromise plan that entails returning the ousted president to power. Arias said the de facto regime “isn’t convinced” and “hasn’t yet recognized that President Zelaya should be reinstated.” He said that “sanctions should continue to be applied.”

Zelaya, camped out on Nicaragua’s northern border, has been invited to the summit, but it is not known if he will attend. Among the presidents of the Central American nations, only Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega is not attending. The presidents of Mexico and Colombia are both in attendance.

Reflecting the sense of deja vu on the isthmus, Arias said, Arias said: “What is frustrating is to see how Latin America looks to be perpetually on the verge of development, trying to cross the threshold. Then it turns on its hinges like a revolving door to go return to the same place it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago.” (Tico Times, Inside Costa Rica, AFP, AP, July 29)

Tide turning against coup regime?
The US July 28 revoked the diplomatic visas of four Hondurans now serving under Roberto Micheletti’s de facto government. Arias said the move shows that Washington is willing to exert “strong pressure” to reach a settlement. The New York Times identifies two of them as Tomás Arita, a Supreme Court justice who signed the order for Zelaya’s removal by the military, and José Alfredo Saavedra, president of Congress. The visas of other officials in the de facto government were also under review, a State Department spokesman said. (Bloomberg, July 29; NYT, July 28)

In a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Honduras-operating companies Nike, Adidas and Gap called for “peaceful and democratic dialogue, in place of military action.” While the letter stated the companies “do not support, have not suported, and will not support” any parties to the conflict, it did express support of US, UN, EU and OAS efforts to bring about the “restoration of democracy in Honduras.” (Honduras Laboral, July 30, quotes retranslated from Spanish)

An earlier statement by industry groups only called for maintaining “stability” in Honduras.

Armed forces blink?
The Honduran armed forces have issued a statement agreeing not to block Arias’ plan, and the National Congress has said it will study the terms. On the eve of last weekend’s protests at the Nicaraguan border, armed forces chief Gen. Romeo Vásquez told Honduras’ Radio Globo, one of the few media outlets critical of the coup: “We will not fire on our people.”

“The armed forces are not the ones responsible for this internal division,” Vásquez said on the radio show, during which he also talked with Zelaya’s wife Xiomara Castro, who remained in Honduras and has been prevented from reaching the border. (AFP, July 25) (Despite this assurance, there was in fact deadly repression at the protest.)

Micheletti blinks?
Micheletti, meanwhile, has remained utterly intransigent on Zelaya’s return. In a guest editorial in the Wall Street Journal, he makes the same sort of noises—but slips in the possibility of accepting the San José Accord.

Micheletti starts out by complaining that “the rhetoric from allies of former President Manuel Zelaya has…dominated media reporting in the US.” He notes that the Honduran Supreme Court voted 15-0 to order Zelaya’s removal. He accuses Zelaya of bad faith by attempting to return before a negotiated solution is reached. Then he writes:

But we are ready to continue discussions once the Supreme Court, the attorney general and Congress analyze President Arias’s proposal. That proposal has been turned over to them so that they can review provisions that impact their legal authority. Once we know their legal positions we will proceed accordingly.

He concludes with a plea to the US not to “impose economic sanctions that would primarily hurt the poorest people in Honduras.” (WSJ, July 27)

Connie Mack in Tegucigalpa
The left-wing BoRev.net and the right-wing Human Events report that Rep. Connie Mack (R-FLA) was in Honduras over the weekend “to find a peaceful, democratic resolution to the crisis.” He is calling for a “coalition-form of government that would administer the inner-workings of Honduras.” In a statement, Mack accuses the White House of conniving with Hugo Chávez against Micheletti:

Day after day, the message from the State Department has been that we should let the negotiators negotiate and ultimately accept the outcome from the Arias talks. But in what seems to be Secretary Clinton’s first conversation with Honduran President Roberto Micheletti since the removal of Mr. Manuel Zelaya, Secretary Clinton joined the likes of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and other leaders in the region and warned President Micheletti of serious consequences if he did not back down and allow Mr. Zelaya to return to power.

Indigenous leaders in hiding
Indigenous leaders Bertha Cáceres and Salvador Zúniga. They were last reported attempting to pass military roadblocks to meet with Zelaya at the Nicaraguan border July 26. The indigenous alliance COPINH says the two have gone into hiding “at a secure place in the mountains near the frontier.” (COFADEH, July 26)

The Afro-Honduran organization OFRANEH released a statement rejecting the Tuxtla Group Summit as an effort aimed at promoting Project Mesoamerica, seen as successor to the Plan Puebla-Panama mega-project. The statement linked Project Mesoamerica to the coup, calling it another form of “intervention in our territory.” (Honduras Solidarity, July 29)

See our last post on Honduras.

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  1. Plan Puebla Panama back?
    Laura Carlsen writes for Americas Program, Sept. 11:

    At the “IX Tuxtla Summit,” held July 24 in Costa Rica, the declaration against the Honduran coup d’etat captured the headlines of regional newspapers. The declaration nearly overshadowed the main purpose of the meeting, which is the advancement of a regional integration plan previously known as Plan Puebla-Panama (PPP).

    The regional heads of state, plus the Dominican Republic and Colombia, agreed to continue with the integration plan that includes infrastructure mega-projects to make the region more “competitive” within the framework of neoliberal globalization, or the “Washington consensus.” This framework has been rejected by many experts and communities, given the global financial crisis that it has provoked and the grave impacts of accelerated inequality, the displacement of local communities, and environmental destruction.

    The PPP was re-launched by President Felipe Calderon of Mexico in a meeting in Campeche in April 2007. At the Tuxtla Summit in 2008, the PPP was re-baptized the “Mesoamerican Integration and Development Project” (MIDP). Promoters felt compelled to change the name due to widespread local, national, and international resistance to the PPP. Grassroots organizing managed to halt several projects and put a serious crimp in the multimillion-dollar public relations efforts to promote the plan.

    Leaders at this summer’s summit reviewed the 2008-2009 report on advances in the Mesoamerican Integration and Development Project. The Project changes very little of the original PPP, designed to facilitate foreign investment and link the region to the needs of the U.S. economy. Priority projects currently under the MIDP include the construction of an Interconnected Electric System for Central America (SIEPAC) with a transmission line running from Guatemala to Panama, the construction of 381 hydroelectric dams, a 10,209 km. network of highways throughout Mesoamerica, agribusinesses, and the construction of biofuel plants. According to the latest information available, the PPP-MIDP encompassed 99 projects with a cost of more than $8 billion.

    The new version adds a few social projects in education and health and creates a new institutional framework. However, it does not modify the model of integration/fragmentation that is oriented toward the international market and the exploitation of natural resources by transnational corporations.

    The summit’s final “Declaration of Guanacaste” acknowledges the principle financers and collaborators of the project: the Inter-American Development Bank, BCIE, CAF, CEPAL, SG-SICA, and SIECA. It calls on the Executive Commission of the PPP-MIDP “to increase its efforts to provide the MIDP with management instruments, incorporating baselines and indicators that facilitate tracking and monitoring activities and a work plan,” “incorporate Finance and Treasury Ministers into the permanent structures to reinforce the link between regional initiatives that the project finances and the pertinent budgeted national programs,” and “implement the actions laid out in the report.” The highlighted priorities are the program “Acceleration of Pacific Corridor of the International Network of Highways (RICAM), port projects, and acquisition of transportation rights needed to finalize the SIEPAC infrastructure within the timetable.”

    These projects imply serious damage to the environment and the displacement of local communities and small-scale farming and fishery activities. Although the MIDP incorporates some mechanisms for consultation with affected communities, they fall far short of respecting the necessary minimum that is established in Article 169 of the ILO and other conventions.