jueves, 5 de noviembre de 2009

Honduras: A bad movie

Lucia Newman, based in Buenos Aires, is Al Jazeera's Latin America editor.
November 5th, 2009

TEGUCIGALPA – If what is happening in Honduras were the script of a Hollywood movie, you would probably brush it off as too bizarre to believe: a president whisked out of his bed at dawn at gunpoint by soldiers, put on a plane – still wearing his pajamas - and sent to a neighbouring country.

The congress, led by his own political party, which has turned on him, then presents a false resignation letter and replaces him with the man who used to be his close friend and campaign manager!

The deposed president tries to get back into the country, overflying the runway in a borrowed plane while the world watches the whole thing live on television ... but he can’t land because the runway is blocked, so he sneaks back in by land, wearing a disguise, and takes refuge at the Brazilian Embassy, betting that his countrymen will rise up to reinstate him in the Presidential Palace.

The United Nations and just about everyone else supports him, but the coup leaders - backed by the country’s economic and political elite - won’t budge. Tear gas and curfews keep protestors more or less under control. Not even international sanctions seem to work, until finally the Americans step in and uses its well known influence (this is, after all, Central America!) to “convince” both sides that enough is enough: they have to sign a deal to resolve this mess and return democratic order to Honduras. (“Coups are unacceptable in the 21st century!”)

The deposed and the de facto presidents sign. The world rejoices. It looks like a happy ending! But like all thrillers, things start to go wrong again, just when you think it’s time for the story to end ...


It’s not a movie, It is all truth … even the part about a hurricane (Ida) approaching the small Central American country in the middle of the political storm. But the part that is hardest to believe, perhaps, is that the deposed president, Manuel Zelaya, the man who did everything imaginable to undo the coup that threw him out of the palace, may have inadvertently signed his political death certificate when he agreed to a US-mediated accord that opened the way for his return to him power, albeit with diminished powers.

The agreement was hailed last week as an unprecedented accord to revert a coup d’etat through peaceful negotiations, but it has one enormous flaw: it does not require Honduras’ Congress to restore Zelaya to power, it only hints that it should. And as everyone knows, in politics assumptions are a bad risk.

The accord requires both the defacto and the deposed presidents to appoint a new cabinet for a government of National Reconciliation and Unity, BUT it does not require the defacto president , Roberto Micheletti, to step aside. This is not, according to Zelaya, what was agreed during the negotiations mediated by US Under Secretary of State Tom Shannon. But what is not on paper does not exist.


The United States, too, appears to have assumed that good will would prevail and Honduras’ political opposition party would vote to reinstate Zelaya until January, when a new president is scheduled to take office, in order to guarantee political stability and calm for the elections at the end of this month.

A bad assumption. Not only are both parties in Congress procrastinating, they are in fact likely to vote against Zelaya’s reinstatement, judging from their public comments.

“Why should we restore Zelaya?”, they say. “The international community signed off on the agreement and Washington says it will recognize the elections no matter what Congress decides. A deal is a deal.”

So, unless there is a last minute, behind the scenes bout of muscle flexing on the part of Washington, as things stand now the much celebrated accord that was supposed to prove that coup d’états were a thing of the past, may actually end up legitimising a presidential overthrow, with the inadvertent complicity of the deposed leader and the international community.

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