30 October 2009

Honduras : A Deal is Cut to Reinstate Zelaya

Zelaya supporter shouts slogans outside the National Congress. Photo from AFP.

Compromise deal restores Zelaya
Riot police meet demonstrators with tear gas

By David Holmes Morris / The Rag Blog / October 30, 2009
See Val Liveoak's analysis of the latest developments -- plus more photos -- Below.
After three weeks of negotiations in a Tegucigalpa hotel, representatives of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and de facto President Roberto Micheletti have reached an agreement by which Zelaya may be reinstated to the position from which he was ousted in a coup d’état on June 28.

On the same day the accords were announced, the police and the military attacked the several hundred demonstrators outside the Clarión Hotel, where the talks were held, using teargas and beating and arresting an unknown number of protesters. “This government is committed to dialogue,” Micheletti declared in a press release announcing the agreement, “keeping to its goal of defending fundamental principles for the well being of our homeland.”

The agreement, announced late in the night of October 29, results from Micheletti’s concession that Zelaya’s restitution should be ratified by the legislature, as Zelaya had held, and not by the supreme court, as the golpista government had argued. Zelaya and his supporters had claimed that leaving the final decision to the court would constitute an admission that the president was removed from office by due process as a result of the crimes against the constitution that the golpistas have charged him with, while a legislative decision would imply he was removed by decree in a coup d’état.

The accord comes after the direct intercession of U.S. State Department undersecretary Thomas Shannon and follows weeks of efforts by representatives of the Organization of Ameican States.

The agreement would leave the final decision on Zelaya’s reinstatement up to the unicameral legislature, pending approval by the supreme court not of his reinstatement but of the legislature’s authority to decide the question. The court had declared several weeks earlier that it would abide by any decision reached in the talks.

The agreement also calls for formation of a “government of reconciliation,” presumably including at cabinet level representatives of all sectors of society; rejects a proposed amnesty for acts committed in connection with the political crisis; calls for recognition of the results of the November 29 elections; specifies the formation of a truth commission; and calls for asking the international community to remove sanctions imposed on the country as a result of the coup and to send observers to monitor the elections.

Riot police hurling tear gas at a march of Zelaya's supporters in Tegucigalpa, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009. Photo by Arnulfo Franco.

Zelaya had agreed early in the negotiations to abandon efforts to organize a constituent assembly, efforts he had made earlier in response to popular pressure, which had sparked the coup. A national opinion poll on rewriting the constitution was scheduled for the same day he was ousted from office.

If actually reinstated, Zelaya will thus serve with no real power for the few weeks left before his term expires in January. “Returing to power might be symbolic,” a Honduran newspaper quotes him as saying two weeks ago, “but what cannot be permitted is that there be coups d’état in any country.”

Elimination of the question of a constituent assembly, central to the concerns of the resistance movement opposing the coup government, brought about the resignation of resistance leader Juan Barahona from Zelaya’s three-member negotiating team. “I didn’t sign [the agreement], I don’t agree with it,” Barahona told the press. “We are never going to renounce the constituent assembly. But we will continue supporting President Zelaya.” Barahona is a director of the Frente de Resistencia contra el Golpe de Estado.

Rafael Alegría, another director of the Frente, has been quoted in the press as declaring that the position of the group is “to continue demanding a constituent assembly and full democracy for the country.” He added, “Our position remains firm: the resistance will not back down, so we are still in the streets demanding President Zelaya’s reinstatement and demanding democracy."

“Zelaya is a symbol,” Salvador Zúñiga has been quoted as saying, “but he is not the definition.” Zúñiga is director of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras, the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. Writing for La Jornada, journalist Arturo Cano says Zúñiga, part of Zelaya’s team of negotaitors in the earlier San José talks, belongs to a sector of the resistance seeking the formation of a “civilian junta” government which would call a constituent assembly within six months “to carry out the profound reforms the country needs, a possible solution given the deep crisis we are living through.”

Many observers say the golpista plan, as supported and promoted by the United States, is to reinstate Zelaya shortly before the November elections in order to create an appearance of legitimacy for the resulting government. The candidate for the rightist Partido Nacional, Pepe Lobo, is expected to win the presidency. Even with Zelaya back in office, large numbers of Hondurans are expected to boycott the elections. The October 29 agreement, reached a month before the November 29 elections, would seem to fit the alleged plan.

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, with supporters, at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, Friday, Oc.t 30, 2009. Photo by Esteban Felix.

Some reflections on the accord in Honduras:
The elite will still be in control

By Val Liveoak / The Rag Blog / October 30, 2009

The accord as described in the NYT article below is a mixed bag.

If all this had happened months ago it would have been great. Now, it leaves things on a road not only to the status before the ouster of President Zelaya, but actually before some of the progressive moves his government made.

To my knowledge, none of the registered candidates for President in the now to be recognized elections has offered to maintain his changes -- among them almost doubling the minimum wage, ties with ALBA countries, cheaper petroleum from Venezuela, etc. I doubt any will continue the call for a revision of the Constitution, the issue that sparked the ouster -- and was about much more than a change in limitations of presidential terms.

Nor will some of the setbacks instituted by the coup government -- and Congreso -- likely be rolled back. These include privatization of power, water and forest resources which were put into effect, I was told, within a few days of the coup. (There's talk of selling off the Copan Ruins, the jewel of tourism in Honduras, as well.) In fact, it remains to be seen if the ministers/cabinet members that the coup regime replaced will be able to return to any sort of effective administration in the few months left of Zelaya's term.

It will be interesting to see how the Resistance coalition responds. They have been calling for delayed elections in which they have the time and security to mount an effective opposition candidate. If they were able to do this, considering their numbers (I believe 75-80% of the population) they would be able to win considerable power in a new government.

Even assuming the government that is elected in November will protect human rights and provide security to opposition candidates, will they be willing to wait for another election cycle? Will the new government make real efforts to address their concerns?

Roberto Micheletti: "Committed to dialogue." Photo by Tiempo.

An effective Truth commission would be a very good step. We'll see how it resolves the dilemma between a superficial reconciliation and actually punishing human rights violations. We'll also see if the new administration after the elections will rein in the security forces in the face of what I expect to be fairly widespread and likely militant opposition. Will formal "legal" repression via security forces and non-formal repression via death squads or paramilitary forces become the standard operating procedure?

In some accounts of the agreement there was more emphasis on the efforts of the OAS. But it looks to me like the U.S.' efforts chiefly seem to be aimed at legitimizing the November elections (which cannot be the engine for any real change in Honduras unless something changes very fast).

The question is, would an election not accepted by the world have been worse than the one that will return the status quo? Given the reality of the probable results of the elections, it will be extremely important for U.S. and world policy to emphasize protection of human rights of the now large and united opposition.

If the opposition continues to meet violent repression or even finds itself incapable of making changes that Honduras needs to reduce the terrible levels of poverty in the country, the possibility of pressure from some sources for an armed insurgency are likely to increase.

The elite of Honduras will win the election in November, I believe. If they continue to do things as they have done throughout the last four months, Honduras is ripe for revolution.

Here's what the NYT has to say.
Deal Reached in Honduras to Restore Ousted President
By Elisabeth Malkin / October 30, 2009

MEXICO CITY -- A lingering political crisis in Honduras seemed to be nearing an end on Friday after the de facto government agreed to a deal, pending legislative approval, that would allow Manuel Zelaya, the deponed president, to return to office.

The government of Roberto Micheletti, which had refused to let Mr. Zelaya return, signed an agreement with Mr. Zelaya's negotiators late Thursday that would pave the way for the Honduran Congress to restore the ousted president and allow him to serve out the remaining three months of his term. If Congress agrees, control of the army would shift to the electoral court, and the presidential election set for Nov. 29 would be recognized by both sides.

Honduran resistance leaders Juan Barahona (left) and Rafael Alegría. Photo by TeleSUR.

On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the deal "an historic agreement."

"I cannot think of another example of a country in Latin America that, having suffered a rupture of its democratic and constitutional order, overcame such a crisis through negotiation and dialogue," Mrs. Clinton said in Islamabad, where she has been meeting with Pakistani officials.

The accord came after a team of senior American diplomats flew from Washington to the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, on Wednesday to press for an agreement. On Thursday, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Thomas A. Shannon Jr., warned that time was running out for an agreement.

Mr. Micheletti's government had argued that the Nov. 29 election would put an end to the crisis. But the United States, the Organization of American States and the United Nations suggested they would not recognize the results of the elections without a pre-existing agreement on Mr. Zelaya's status.

"We were very clearly on the side of the restoration of the constitutional order, and that includes the elections," Mrs. Clinton said in Islamabad.

According to Mr. Micheletti, the accord reached late Thursday would establish a unity government and a verification commission to ensure that its conditions are carried out. It would also create a truth comisión to investigate the events of the past few months.

The agreement also reportedly asks the international community to recognize the results of the elections and to lift any sanctions that were imposed after the coup. The suspension of international aid has stalled badly needed projects in one of the region's poorest countries. Negotiators for both men were expected to meet Friday to work out final details. It was not clear what would happen if the Honduran Congreso rejected the deal.

Passage could mean a bookend to months of international pressure and political turmoil in Honduras, where regular marches by Mr. Zelaya's supporters and curfews have paralyzed the capital.

Latin American governments had pressed the Obama administration to take a forceful approach to ending the political impasse, but Washington had let the Organization of American States take the lead and endorsed negotiations that were brokered by the Costa Rican president, Óscar Arias. But those talks stalled in July.

Demonstrators outside Clarión Hotel. Photo by Indymedia Honduras.

New negotiations began earlier this month but broke down two weeks ago. With the Honduran elections approaching, the United States chose to step up pressure and dispatched Mr. Shannon, along with Dan Restrepo, the senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council.

Some Honduran political and business leaders have argued that the military coup that ousted Mr. Zelaya on June 28 was a legal response to his attempts to rewrite the Constitution and seek re-election. But that constituency was also concerned by his deepening alliance with Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chávez.

Mr. Zelaya, who was initially deposited in Costa Rica, still in his nightclothes, sneaked back into the country on Sept. 21 and has been living at the Brazilian Embassy since then. It was unclear when Mr. Zelaya would be able to leave the embassy, which has had Honduran soldiers posted outside. The de facto government had said it would arrest him if he came out.

Source / New York Times
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