Honduras: US seeks "happy end" —at cost of democracy?
The State Department sent Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Craig Kelly to Honduras Nov. 10 in a bid to relaunch the moribund dialogue. Kelly held separate talks with ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya and de facto president Roberto Micheletti, but left the Central American country the following day with no deal. Kelly insisted the US is "advancing the dialogue," adding, "We think it's important to continue the conversations." (AlJazeera, Nov. 12)
Meanwhile in Washington, Republicans are celebrating what they call the "reversal" of the Obama administration's policy on Honduras—meaning the apparent decision to recognize the results of the coming presidential election, even if Zelaya is not previously reinstated.
Some Democrats are protesting the policy shift. Rep. Howard L. Berman of California, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, telephoned Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg to express his concerns on the administration's handling of Honduran crisis. An aide to the congressman told the New York Times, "It was not a feel-good phone call."
Frederick Jones, a spokesman for Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the senator believed that the State Department's "abrupt change" of policy "caused the collapse of an accord it helped negotiate."
Washington's growing international isolation on the question is also evident. The secretary general of the Organization of American States, José Miguel Insulza, said Nov. 11 that he would not send observers to monitor the presidential election, scheduled for Nov. 29. And many of the organization's 34 members said they would not recognize the winner unless Zelaya is reinstated to complete his term. "Paraguay is not only not going to accept the outcome of the elections, it will not even accept that the elections are held," said Hugo Saguier Caballero, Paraguay's ambassador to the OAS. "These elections for us simply will not exist." (NYT, Nov. 10)
A Nov. 12 editorial by Voice of America, "Honduras's Future Is In Its Own Hands," legitimized moves taken by the de facto regime to avoid a vote on returning to Zelaya to power: "Before voting on the president's return, congressional leaders have asked for input from the Supreme Court, attorney general and human rights ombudsman. This is consistent with the accord and was agreed to by both parties during the negotiation of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord."
It stated nearly explicitly that Washington does not see Zelaya's return as a prerequisite for legitimate elections (as stipulated by the spirit if not the letter of the abrogated accord): "The United States will respect any decision by the Honduran Congress, and is working to create an environment in which Hondurans themselves can address and resolve the issues that precipitated the crisis. With this behind them, the nation may move forward to address the many other challenges facing it." (VOA, Nov. 12)
Meanwhile, the Honduran daily El Tiempo ran an editorial thanking the governments of Latin America for standing strong in not recognizing the elections—and accusing Washington of seeking a "happy end" (using the English phrase in quotes) at the cost of "constitutional order." The editorial praised "[t]he responsible solidarity of the international community—of the OAS, UN, Rio Group, UNASUR, ALBA, non-aligned countries, et cetera—with Honduras and its people, not to cede a smidgen in their condemnation of the military coup d'etat and their demand for the restoration of constitutional and institutional order..." (El Tiempo, San Perdo Sula, Nov. 12 via Honduras Laboral)