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Tuesday, September 22, 2009
As noted yesterday, ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya somehow made his way back to Honduras yesterday, showing up at the Brazilian embassy and catching the de facto regime off guard. Details of how he was able to successfully enter Honduras and travel to Tegucigalpa - without alerting the de facto government or being arrested by the Honduran police or military - remains a question for everyone, including the United States Department of State and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. Zelaya did tell the BBC that he "traveled for more than 15 hours ... through rivers and mountains until we reached the capital of Honduras.... We overcame military and police obstacles, all those on the highways here, because this country has been kidnapped by the military forces."
Now that Zelaya is back in Honduras, what happens next remains a question for everyone following the recent turn of events. According to the Center for International Policy, there are multiple options:
- Micheletti is vowing to arrest Zelaya, but that appears unlikely since the President is technically on Brazilian soil and surrounded by a large number of supporters.
- Zelaya is offering to negotiate; if Micheletti digs in his heels and refuses, the result could be a long standoff in the middle of Tegucigalpa - one that risks outbreaks of violence in the capital and elsewhere.
- Unless, of course, the political ground under him caves in completely, and Micheletti has to give up power unilaterally - but that is far from certain given the solidity of elite and armed-forces support he appears to enjoy. For now, the coup government has the guns, and most of the political class, on its side.
- The best outcome would be for Micheletti immediately to accept the dialogue offer and reach an agreement to restore democratic order. An agreement, perhaps, along the lines of the San José Accord, which allows for Zelaya's return with no further re-election discussion and a mutual amnesty. (The latter is probably necessary because both sides can credibly be accused of having broken Honduran law.)
It appears that there will be a prolonged stand-off between Zelaya and the de facto government. We will provide daily updates on the blog regarding what has happened in the past 24 hours.
Here is what has happened since our update yesterday.
- The OAS held a special meeting in Washington yesterday to discuss the unfolding events in Honduras. While Nicaragua and Venezuela opposed a declaration that included the San José Accord, the OAS General Assembly passed a Declaration "in which the organization 'calls for the immediate signing of the San José Agreement', demands full guarantees to ensure the life and physical integrity of President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, and supports the initiatives undertaken by the Secretary General José Miguel Insulza to facilitate dialogue and restoration of the constitutional order in Honduras."
- OAS Secretary General Insulza hopes to travel to Honduras as soon as possible in order to facilitate a dialogue between the de facto government and Zelaya. He initially intended to travel to Honduras today, but has had to postpone his trip because Micheletti has closed all of the international airports in Honduras. Insulza also stated that "I want to go when I am sure that I will help the dialogue. I am not interested in participating in a conflict." Costa Rican President Oscar Arias also remarked that if both parties request it, he too would travel to Honduras to facilitate the adoption of an agreement between both parties.
According to Arias, who facilitated the dialogues leading to the San José Accord, Zelaya's return to Honduras "makes it easier ... for us to put some more pressure on the de facto government to sign the San José Accord and, well, there is need for more dialogue, for sure. That dialogue can take place in Tegucigalpa or in San Jose, Costa Rica, if it was necessary. But the main difficulty has been Zelaya's return. Now that he's back, it's going to be much easier."
- Many governments fear that the unfolding events in Honduras could lead to violent confrontations between pro-Zelaya and pro-coup groups (including the Honduran police and military), instigating official statements calling for the safety of Zelaya and his supporters.
OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza: "I would like to call for calm to all stakeholders in this process, and stress to the authorities of the de facto government that they should be responsible for the safety of President Zelaya and the Embassy of Brazil."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "Both sides have supporters who need to be restrained and careful in their actions in the days ahead.... We have spoken directly to multiple parties and very clearly said that there had to be calm and peace in the streets."
European Union: "The European Union urges all concerned to refrain from any action that might increase tension and violence."
- De facto president Micheletti called on the government of Brazil to "respect the judicial order against Mr. Zelaya and turn his in to Honduran authorities." Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim responded with a warning that "any threat to Mr. Zelaya or the Brazilian embassy would be a grave breach of international law."
Zelaya has said he would not be surprised if the Micheletti government invades the Brazilian embassy in order to arrest him. However, the Honduran police have denied that this would happen.
However, the light, water and telephone service to the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa has been cut off, inciting Zelaya to accuse the de facto government of attempting to "asphyxiate" the embassy. "I think they are going to employ a strategy of asphyxiating the embassy by surrounding it, cutting off the food supply, asphyxiating the people inside in order to demonstrate their force and power, and to try and humiliate the people in here who are really trying to find a solution, for dialogue at a national level"
- The de facto Micheletti government imposed a 15 hour curfew in Tegucigalpa, starting at 4:00 pm yesterday, by this morning, the curfew had been extended to 26 hours. All four international airports in Honduras have also been closed
News outlets report that many Zelaya supporters ignored the curfew and remained outside the Brazilian embassy, where Zelaya is staying. By Tuesday morning, riot-police had dispersed the crowds with tear gas, jets of water and clubs and allegedly issued multiple arrests.
The Chair of the OAS Permanent Council released a statement Tuesday morning, in which he "condemned and regretted ... the violent events occurred this morning around the Embassy of Brazil in Honduras."
The Honduran Embassy in Washington has also posted a statement on its website condemning "the use of violence and intimidation by military and police forces controlled by the illegitimate government of Micheletti against the people of Honduras."
- The Washington Post published an op-ed by de facto President Micheletti today, titled "Moving Forward in Honduras," in which Micheletti claims that his government is both legitimate and democratic and that he will not step down until January 27th, when the candidate elected in the November 29th elections will take over. "The winner of the November election will take office as president of Honduras in January 2010. At that moment my transitional administration will cease, and the newly sworn-in president will hold all the authority vested to him by our country's constitution."
In the op-ed, Micheletti supports his argument by stating that "coups do not allow freedom of assembly, either. They do not guarantee freedom of the press, much less respect for human rights. In Honduras, these freedoms remain intact and vibrant." Various reports, however, have condemned human rights violations, press censorship and repression of non-violent protests by the de facto regime since June 28th.
- Porfirio Lobo, one of the presidential candidates who supported the coup, has threatened to drop his support for the de facto regime if the Micheletti government does not negotiate with Zelaya.
- The U.S. State Department released the following statement on the situation in Honduras:
The United States calls on all parties to remain calm and avoid actions that might provoke violence in Honduras, and place individuals at risk or harm. We urge that all parties refrain from actions that would lead to further unrest.
We stress the need for dialogue; the United States supports the proposed mission by the Organization of American States to promote this dialogue. We encourage the parties to sign and implement immediately the San José Accord, which remains the best approach to resolve this crisis.
We stress the importance of respecting the inviolability of the Embassy of Brazil in Tegucigalpa and the individuals on its premises. We note with appreciation the de facto authority's statement last night promising to respect the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, to which Honduras is a party. Respect and protection for the inviolability of diplomatic premises is a universally accepted principle of international relations.
- De facto President Micheletti announced his desire to begin a dialogue with all sectors of society and impartial foreign diplomats. "We will establish a committee without the people who have been intervening previously." Micheletti solicited the participation of "an impartial party from the United Nations who can come to hear the position of the Hondurans."
Monday, September 21, 2009
On Thursday the 17th, Paraguay rejected a military cooperation deal with the United States which would have placed about 500 U.S. military and other personnel in the country. U.S. Ambassador to Asunción Liliana Ayalde said, “We regret the decision but we respect it.”
Given the diplomatic rifts that the U.S.-Colombia base deal has caused in South America, the increase in weapons purchases throughout the region, and the increasingly tense tone of Unasur meetings, the decision is not surprising. President Fernando Lugo said that the round of U.S. exercises scheduled for 2010 was “neither prudent nor convenient at this time and could raise concerns among the other members of the Mercosur and Unasur.”
Unlike many other members of Unasur, Paraguay has consistently denounced the recent increases in Latin American governments’ arms purchases, and has not acquired weapons in the last few years. According to the Paraguayan foreign affairs minister, Hector Lacognate, the Paraguayan position is “pacifist.”
Lacognate maintained that beyond the military dimension, “[w]e have an excellent bilateral agenda with the United States, with more than 30 agreements currently in place.”
Monday, September 21, 2009
Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya returned to Honduras today, and will give a press conference this afternoon. While initial reports cited his location to be the offices of the United Nations in Tegucigalpa, the Brazilian Embassy has confirmed his presence in their building, which is next door to de facto President Micheletti's private residence.
According to Ximoara Castro, Zelaya's wife, "the President has entered the country to begin a dialogue" with members of the de facto government. Zelaya told Honduran Channel 36 that he was "here for the restoration of democracy, to call for dialogue."
The de facto Micheletti government denies that Zelaya has successfully returned to Honduras. In a press conference at the presidential palace, Micheletti said that "it is not true, Zelaya is in a hotel suite in Nicaragua," but his return has already been confirmed by both the U.S. State Department and the Brazilian Embassy.
News outlets are reporting that between 3,000 and 4,000 Zelaya supporters have gathered outside the main U.N building in Tegucigalpa in order to "protect" Zelaya from arrest, as Micheletti had previously stated that Zelaya would be immediately arrested if he crossed into Honduran territory. There is concern that a confrontation between pro-Zelaya and pro-coup groups or police forces could erupt on the streets. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly noted, "At this point, all I can say is reiterate our almost daily call on both sides to exercise restraint and refrain from ... any activities that could provoke violence."
Update 3:51 pm: According to Zelaya, Secretary General of the Organization of American States José Miguel Insulza will travel to Honduras tomorrow to begin the dialogue between the de facto government and Zelaya.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) introduced new legislation - S. 1665: ATPDEA Expansion and Extension Act of 2009 - this week to include Uruguay and Paraguay in the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA). Presently, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru benefit from ATPDEA, which authorizes the President to grant duty-free treatment or reduced tariffs to a wide range of products, with the goal of promoting economic development and providing alternatives to the production of cocaine. (Bolivia has been suspended from eligibility due to its failure to cooperate with U.S. counternarcotics policy).
In April of this year, similar legislation was introduced in both the House and the Senate, which called for the extension of ATPDEA benefits to Paraguay. Senator Lugar's new bill aims to extend benefits to both Paraguay and Uruguay.
The ATPDEA Expansion and Extension Act of 2009 asks for Uruguay's wool-based textiles to be included under ATPDEA's benefits, which currently excludes from duty-free treatment "textiles and apparel articles" that previously have not been deemed eligible. It also asks for a two-year extension of ATPDEA benefits to all eligible countries - moving the current 'expiration date' from December 31, 2009 to December 31, 2012.
Senator Lugar introduced the legislation on Monday, one day before Uruguayan President Tabaré Vásquez made an official visit to the United States.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Yesterday, the White House issued the "Majors List" of narcotics source and transfer countries for 2009. Under the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, the President must submit to Congress an annual report identifying (a) major drug-producing or transit countries and (b) those countries not "cooperating" with U.S. counternarcotics measures and subject to sanctions. Using the "International Narcotics Control Strategy Report" published by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) every March, the "Majors List" is compiled each year and presented to the Secretary of State for consideration before being approved by the President and sent to Congress.
This year's list has no surprises or new additions - with all 20 countries on the list already appearing on the 2008 "Majors List." Also similar to last year, Venezuela and Bolivia were cited as having "'failed demonstrably' during the last 12 months to adhere to international counternarcotic agreements and take counternarcotic measures set forth in U.S. law." This is Venezuela's fifth consecutive year on this list, and Bolivia's second.
Designation of a country as having "failed demonstrably" can lead to sanctions, however President Obama issued a waiver "so that the United States may continue to support specific programs to benefit the Bolivian and Venezuelan people." These programs include "civil society programs and small community development programs" in Venezuela and "continued support for agricultural development, exchange programs, small enterprise development, and police training programs" in Bolivia.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Yesterday, we wrote that State Department spokesman Ian Kelly had expressed concern about Venezuela's desire to build up its arsenal. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a very similar statement yesterday during her press conference with Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez.
In response to a question about weapons sales and the possibility of an arms race in the region, Secretary Clinton chose to focus her answer entirely on Venezuela, even though the reporter also used Brazil's recent military agreement with France as an example. According to Secretary Clinton, "[Venezuela] outpace[s] all other countries in South America and certainly raise[s] the question as to whether there is going to be an arms race in the region." As Ian Kelly did in the press briefing, Secretary Clinton emphasized the importance of putting procedures and practices in place "to ensure that the weapons ... are not diverted to insurgent groups or illegal organizations."
Uruguayan President Vásquez also responded to the question, focusing his answer more on how investment in arms can divert attention and investment away from development and fighting poverty and inequality in the region. "The governments of South America [should] decide to devote more money to promote health, to promote education and education to prevent diseases; to spend that money, instead of spending it in weapons."
Below is an excerpt from the joint press conference, citing in full both Secretary Clinton's and President Vasquez's answers to the question on arms transfers in the region.
QUESTION: I was wondering if you could give us your thoughts on what seems to be a growing transfer of arms and possibly even an arms race in the region. We've seen a lot of transfers of technology from Iran to Venezuela. The Brazilians just bought a very big package from the French. And I'm wondering if this is alarming to you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have expressed concern about the number of Venezuelan arms purchases. They outpace all other countries in South America and certainly raise the question as to whether there is going to be an arms race in the region. So we urge Venezuela to be transparent in its purchases, clear about its purposes. They should be putting in place procedures and practices to ensure that the weapons that they buy are not diverted to insurgent groups or illegal organizations, like drug trafficking gangs and other criminal cartel
PRESIDENT VAZQUEZ: (Via interpreter) With respect to the arms race, not only is our country worried, but we have already expressed time and again our position against an arms race. We believe that it is quite inconvenient to the region to devote such significant economic resources toward purchasing arms. And - but it's a fact, and we can't deny it, that the countries are buying weapons.
And to make things worse, our region is the region that has the worst distribution of wealth. So with - under those conditions, it is still worse to be devoting those resources to weapons. South America has millions of people living in poverty, and there are thousands of children that die across Latin America and South America because of child diarrhea or diseases that could be prevented.
So because of all these reasons, all that should lead the governments of South America to decide to devote more money to promote health, to promote education and education to prevent diseases; to spend that money, instead of spending it in weapons, spending it in housing, good housing for our people, and to further deepen investment, especially in the field of education.
So we should devote our energies and resources to fight against the real scourges of our societies, that are drug - such as drug trafficking and terrorism. That would be certainly a much better use of our resources.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Yesterday, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly was asked about Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's ambitions to pursue a civilian nuclear program with help from Russia, and whether this has inspired concern within the U.S. government about technology transfers or nuclear transfers between Venezuela and Iran.
According to Kelly, the United States is concerned not only about the civilian nuclear program, but also about Venezuela's desire to build up its arsenal. He stated a U.S. government desire that Venezuela put in place procedures and safeguards to ensure that "these arms are not diverted to any irregular or illegal organizations in the region." Kelly's response alludes to recent reports that Venezuelan anti-tank rocket launchers were recently found in the hands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as well as the United States' growing concern about Iran's influence in the region.
Below is the full text of State Department spokesman Kelly's response to the question on Venezuela during yesterday's press briefing at the State Department.
QUESTION: Is there any concern about technology transfers or nuclear transfers on the U.S. part between Iran and Venezuela?
MR. KELLY: The short answer is, to that, yes, we do have concerns. We have concerns in general about Venezuela‚Äôs stated desire to increase its arms buildup, which we think poses a serious challenge to stability in the Western Hemisphere. What they are looking to purchase and what they are purchasing outpaces all other countries in South America. And of course, we‚Äôre concerned about an arms race in the region.
And we urge Venezuela to be transparent in its purchases and very clear about the purposes of these purchases. And we‚Äôre also very concerned that they put in place very clear procedures and safeguards that these ‚Äì that these arms are not diverted to any irregular or illegal organizations in the region.
Venezuela is a signatory of the NPT. It has certain obligations, of course, under the NPT for any civilian nuclear program. And of course, we will be looking closely at this.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
CIP Intern Hannah Brodlie compiled this collection of recent reports of friction between governments and the news media throughout Latin America. Concerns about freedom of the press are on the increase.
- A massive September 10 tax raid on Argentina’s largest newspaper publisher, Grupo Clarín, fueled nationwide controversy over President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's proposed media bill. The “Media Reform Bill” would replace broadcast regulations dating back to 1980 with the stated goal of increasing competition and preventing media monopolies. It would force some of the biggest media groups (especially Clarín) to sell their assets. Critics of the bill insist that the raid and the bill stem from a personal grudge between the government and the newspaper, and argue that the law would allow “direct and indirect government control over media and journalistic content." See this Houston Chronicle article for the troubling details of the increasingly personal fight between Clarín and the Kirchners (the president and her predecessor and husband, Néstor Kirchner).
- In July the Venezuelan government closed 34 radio stations and two small television stations for allegedly failing to comply with regulations, and they’ve opened investigations into more than 200 others. In addition, attacks by pro-government militants on Globovisión, the only strongly anti-Chavez station in the country, have been largely ignored by officials. In fact, Venezuelan prosecutors recently opened a criminal probe into Globovisión to determine whether they were trying to incite rebellion by airing a string of text messages from viewers, some of which called for a coup.
- In Ecuador, television station Telemazonas has also been accused of broadcasting a secret government recording of a meeting President Rafael Correa held in his office. The station's director has said that the participants in the meeting were speaking of “public matters,” referring to how they had passed the constitution through the constituent assembly in 2008. Telemazonas is accused of violating media regulations and broadcasting law for the fourth time, and President Correa has said he will ask for its closure.
- Despite a recent statement from President Álvaro Uribe reiterating the government’s commitment to journalistic freedom in Colombia, the recent discovery that opposition journalists were a major target of years of illegal wiretapping and surveillance from the presidential intelligence service (DAS) suggests otherwise. For example, according to the Foundation for Press Freedom, the number of press freedom violations increased drastically due to the DAS activities, from January to June of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008.
- In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega has also been publicly attacking the media, saying that he considers his critics in the press to be “weapons” of his political enemies. He has called on his party to close ranks against media critics and religious leaders who “generate” opposition. Ortega has said that "the State must act as necessary to regulate the activity of the media." A Ley de Colegio de Periodistas would do just that: establish “ethical” regulations for journalism and introduce conditions for its practice.
- At the end of July, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights noted, "During this year, at least nine reporters have been killed in the region for reasons that may have been related to their journalistic activity. Three of these reporters were killed in Mexico."
Monday, September 14, 2009
Mexico's El Universal reported last week that the number of deaths by narcoviolence in 2009 surpassed 5,000 on Thursday morning, reaching 5,018 by the end of the day. With narcoviolence-related deaths already surpassing 5,000 in early September, it looks like 2009 is assured to be more violent than 2008 - which ended with 5,600 narcoviolence-related murders.
The article in El Universal breaks down the numbers of narcoviolence-related deaths to show how fast narcoviolence in Mexico is increasing. Here are some of those statistics:
- Under Mexican President Felipe Calderón's government, there have been 13,599 murders related to organized crime;
- The most recent 1,000 narcoviolence-related deaths of 2009 occurred in 41 days (August 1 - September 10);
- During those 41 days, a minimum of 24 crimes/day were reported - or one crime per hour;
- The first 1,000 narcoviolence-related deaths of 2009 occurred in 51 days, the second 1,000 in 59 days, the third 1,000 in 58 days and the fourth 1,000 in 44 days;
- Of the most recent 1,000 deaths, 487 were in Chihuahua, specifically in Ciudad Juárez where the Juárez and Sinaloa cartels fight for control of trafficking routes across the border into the United States;
- In 2009, narcoviolence-related deaths has occurred all over the country, except in Tlaxcala and Yucatán;
- The two most violent days of 2009 were August 17th, with 57 deaths, and September 2nd, with 52 deaths.
If the narcoviolence-related death rate (1,000 deaths/41 days) continues at its current pace, the remaining months of 2009 could add almost 2,750 more deaths to the 5,018 already cited by El Universal.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
(This post was written by CIP Associate Abigail Poe.)
Following the June 28th coup in Honduras, the U.S. government did not immediately impose sanctions on the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti. Some aid was suspended, but few other steps were taken, with the argument that moving slowly preserved "leverage" on behalf of President Manuel Zelaya's return. However, after a last OAS mission to Honduras in late August failed to convince the de facto coup government to agree to the terms of the San Jose Accord, the United States has started to implement multiple sanctions.
Below is a list of the sanctions that have been imposed by the United States on the de facto Honduran government to date, including details on the aid that has been officially terminated. In addition to the sanctions listed below, the State Department also released a statement indicating that "at this moment, we would not be able to support the outcome of the scheduled elections" on November 29 in Honduras.
- $11 million in Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) assistance to Honduras has been terminated, along with a hold on $4 million intended for a road project.
- $9.4 million in USAID assistance has been terminated. This includes $8.7 million in development assistance and Economic Support Funds (ESF), which "go mainly toward trade capacity building and support for Honduran ministries of labor and education" and $2.7 million of the Child Survival and Health fund.
- $8.96 million in State Department assistance has been terminated. This is broken into three parts: $6.5 million in Foreign Military Financing, $361,000 in International Military Education and Training and $1.72 million in Global Peacekeeping operations.
- $1.7 million in section 1206 security assistance has been frozen.
- Visas of a few members and supporters of the de facto regime have been revoked.
- The nonimmigrant visa section in the consular section of the embassy in Honduras has been closed to all but emergency cases.
So far, the sanctions and threats to not recognize the results of the November 29th elections have not appeared to soften the Micheletti regime's opposition to the San Jose Accord and the subsequent return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya to power. Instead, Micheletti has expressed that he "is sure that the international community will recognize the regime formed from the coup d'etat on June 28, after the elections take place on November 29th."