Elections in Honduras will be held in 11 days, and very little progress has been made on advancing the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord. The Accord was signed by ousted President Manuel Zelaya and de facto President Roberto Micheletti on October 29th and declared “dead” by Zelaya on November 5th.
Since the apparent crumbling of the Accord, very little has advanced, despite the United States’ attempts to keep the process moving by sending deputy assistant secretary of state Craig Kelly to Honduras twice to meet with both Zelaya and Micheletti. Zelaya has dug in his heels, calling for a boycott of the November 29th elections by his supporters and sending President Obama a letterstating that he will not accept any deal to restore him to office that legitimizes the coup.
Yesterday, the Honduran Congress announced that it will not convene to vote on Zelaya’s restitution, a step required by the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord, until December 2nd – 3 days after the presidential elections are to be held.
Here are more details about the most recent events in Honduras’ political crisis:
For two days, from November 10 – 11, deputy assistant secretary of state Craig Kelly traveled to Honduras to meet with both ousted President Manuel Zelaya and de facto President Roberto Micheletti in an attempt to get both sides to abide by the terms of the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord. He left the next day without any apparent advancement in the Accord, but appeared positive, telling the press “There is still a lot of work to be done along the way … but I believe it is important for both sides to keep talking.”According to the State Department’s twitter feed, @dipnote, deputy assistant secretary Kelly returned to Honduras yesterday to continue to advance dialogue between the two parties and attempt to move the Accord forward.
Much criticism has emerged against the United States’ role in the collapse of the accord it helped negotiate.Anything new to the world is first criticized and it is in fact this criticism and questioning that brings popularity and name to it. Similar was the case with the Orion code which made its entry into the trading a few years ago. This is not a scam and traders can reliably take this platform for their trading interests and there would never be a collapse for it is 100% legitimate.Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), said, through his spokesman, that the “State Department’s ‘abrupt change’ of policy toward Honduras ’caused the collapse of an accord it helped negotiate.'”One group, the Alliance for Global Justice, sent out an urgent action alert earlier this week, calling for people to call their senators and tell them to vote ‘no’ on Thomas Shannon’ confirmation as U.S. Ambassador to Brazil. The alert argues that Shannon is “not fit to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Brazil” because “Either Shannon defied President Obama’s instructions and plotted with the coup regime to keep it in power, or he was fooled by thuggish coup leader Roberto Micheletti into supporting a hoax that the coup regime had no intention of honoring.”
Last Tuesday, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, José Miguel Insulza, said he would not send observers to monitor the November 29th elections, while many of the OAS’s member countries said they would not recognize the election winner unless Zelaya was reinstated.In response, the U.S. Ambassador to the OAS, Lewis Amselem, said: “I’ve heard many in this room say that they will not recognize the elections in Honduras. I’m not trying to be a wiseguy, but what does that mean? What does that mean in the real world, not in the world of magical realism?” This prompted us to ask, in an earlier blog, where is the Obama administration’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the OAS?
Zelaya has been calling for a boycott of the elections by his supporters, and in protest of the coup d’etat, 110 mayoral candidates and 55 deputies have pulled out of the elections.However, despite the continued controversy surrounding the legitimacy of the upcoming elections, Honduras’ Supreme Electoral Court announced that already has confirmed over 250 international observers for the November 29th elections. While a detailed list of the observers has not been provided, the Honduran National Party announced that it invited around 100 observers, among them ex presidents Jorge Quiroga (Bolivia), Armando Calderón and Alfredo Critiani (El Salvador); Vinicio Cerezo (Guatemala), Vicente Fox (Mexico) and Alejandro Toledo (Peru). According to the National Party, “the majority of the invited have confirmed their attendance and in some cases will send a representative.”
Over the weekend, Zelaya sent President Obama a letter, in which he said he will not accept any deal to restore him to office if it legitimizes the coup government. In the letter, Zelaya also stated that he will not accept the legitimacy of the upcoming elections and accused the Obama administration of reversing its stance on whether the elections would be legitimate if he was not in office.In the letter, Zelaya writes: “The future that you show us today by changing your position in the case of Honduras, and thus favoring the abusive intervention of the military castes … is nothing more than the downfall of freedom and contempt for human dignity. … It is a new war against the processes of social and democratic reforms so necessary in Honduras.”
The president of the Honduran Congress, José Alvedro Saavedra, announced that Congress would not convene until after the elections to vote on Zelaya’s restitution – setting the vote date as December 2nd.According to Reuters, this move by the Congress was most likely made in an effort to win more international support for the elections. “The delay could leave a door open to negotiators to continue looking for a way to end the deadlock. A ‘No’ vote before the election might have increased international rejection of the result of the presidential election.”
One and a half weeks ago, on October 30th, it appeared that the political crisis in Honduras, instigated on June 28th after then-President Manuel Zelaya was removed from the country in his pajamas, was nearing an end. A high-level delegation of United States officials had left Honduras with an agreement signed between ousted President Zelaya and de facto President Roberto Micheletti, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that an historic breakthrough had occurred in Honduras.
As last week progressed, however, the “historic” deal appeared to be crumbling. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon said the United States will recognize the November 29th elections in Honduras whether or not Zelaya is reinstated, the Honduran Congress delayed a vote on the reinstatement of Zelaya, one of the steps required by the signed agreement. Zelaya sent Secretary Clinton a letter asking her to restate the United States’ opinion on his reinstatement to the presidency, and finally, Micheletti created a unity government without Zelaya’s participation, prompting Zelaya to denounce the deal as “dead.”
Over the weekend, the Verification Commission appointed to oversee the implementation of the steps required in the signed Tegucigalpa-San José Accord, and an OAS delegation attempted to restart talks and move the deal forward. Yet this morning, it still appears to be where it was on Friday – stuck. And the elections are 19 days away.
The United States released a statement expressing disappointment at both sides’ failure to implement the agreement, though it has left behind its calls for Zelaya’s reinstatement and now rests its recognition of the November 29th elections on the new agreement, which does not guarantee Zelaya’s return.
Here is a summary of events in Honduras since the Tegucigalpa-San José agreement was signed last Thursday.
On Friday, October 30th, it was announced that a deal had been signed late Thursday between ousted President Zelaya and de facto President Micheletti. Article 5 of this accorddeferred the decision on Zelaya’s restitution to the Honduran Congress:
The National Congress, as an institutional expression of popular sovereignty, in the use of its powers, in consultation with the points that the Supreme Court of Justice should consider pertinent and in conformity with the law, should resolve in that proceeding in respect to “return the incumbency of Executive Power to its state previous to the 28 of June until the conclusion of the present governmental period, the 27 of January of 2010
The accord also:
Called for the formation of a Government of Unity and National Reconciliation;
Called for the creation of a Verification Commission to give “witness of the strict completion of all the points of this Accord;”
Denounced the convocation of a National Constituent Assembly or reform of the “unreformable” articles of the constitution;
Transferred oversight of the upcoming elections to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal;
Called for the normalization of the international community’s relations with Honduras;
And set up a timeline for implementing the steps outlined in the agreement, with the appointment of the Verification Commission by November 2nd and the appointment and installation of the Government of Unity and National Reconciliation by November 5th.
From Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced “we’ve had a breakthrough in negotiations in Honduras.” She continued to express the historic nature of the event, saying “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.”
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon, in a teleconference on October 30th, announced that the agreement “effectively opens a pathway to resolve Honduras’ current political crisis and that will allow the international community to support Honduras’ elections on November 29th.”Shannon also noted, in response to a question on why there was any thought that the Honduran Congress would return Zelaya to the presidency, that it was “because of the political dynamic inside the country.”
By Monday, there was speculation that Assistant Secretary Shannon had made a deal with the presidential candidates and the Micheletti negotiators to guarantee Congress’ vote to restore Zelaya to the presidency. Leading presidential candidate Porfirio Lobo announcedthat “I have not reached an agreement with the United States nor in any moment did I make a secret pact in a private meeting with Thomas Shannon.” The negotiators for Micheletti also announced that “there is not an agreement under the table.”
U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos were named as the international representatives for the four-member Verification Commission. The other two members represent Honduras’ two major political parties.
On Tuesday, the Honduran Congress was set to meet to discuss plans to vote on the issues outlined in the agreement. However, congressional leaders decided not to call Congress out of recess, and to instead delay the vote on whether or not Zelaya should return to the presidency. The Congress also requested opinions on the legality of Zelaya’s return from the Supreme Court and the attorney general.
On Wednesday, ousted President Zelaya sent a letter to Secretary Clinton asking her to “clarify to the Honduran people if the position condemning the coup d’etat has been changed or modified.” In response to the letter, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly noted that “Our position has been very clear from the very beginning that we did consider what happened in June in Honduras to be a coup. We’ve made our position on President Zelaya and his restitution clear. This is a – we believe he should be restored to power. This is now a Honduran process that was started by the agreement over the weekend.”
Thursday evening, the deadline for the creation of the National Unity Government, ended with Zelaya’s refusal to submit his list of members for the new Unity Government and Micheletti’s decision to create the Unity Government anyway, with himself at the head.Earlier in the day, Zelaya warned that he would withdraw from the deal unless Congress held a vote on restoring him to the presidency, though the Micheletti government felt that Congress’ vote was not as essential to the agreement as the creation of the unity government. As a result, Zelaya did not submit his recommendations for members of the new government and Micheletti announced he had “finalized the process of confirming a unity government,” prompting Zelaya to pronounce the accord “dead,” as reported by the BBC.
The United States promptly released a statement on Friday describing the State Department’s discontent in relation to the way both parties had behaved, though the statement continued to express the Administration’s confidence in the Accord:
We were particularly disappointed by the unilateral statements made by both sides last night, which do not serve the spirit of the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord…. Complete and timely implementation of the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord is the path to that future, and the formation of a Government of Unity and National Reconciliation is the next vital step forward.
The Organization of American States also issued a statement on the failure to implement the Agreement.
The Secretary General declared that the OAS will continue in all of its efforts to move forward the process of dialogue and urged President José Manuel Zelaya and Mr. Roberto Micheletti to reach an agreement in the formation of a Government of Unity and National Reconciliation that should, naturally, be presided by he who legitimately holds the office of President of the Honduran nation.
To that end, “it is also essential that the Honduran National Congress issue its sovereign declaration on the pending point of the San José Agreement regarding the restoration of the Executive Power to its state prior to June 28 and until the end of the current term of government, January 27, 2010,” Insulza said.
On Thursday, Senator Jim DeMint lifted the hold on the confirmations of Arturo Valenzuela as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and Thomas Shannon as the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, after accepting the United States’ role in allowing the Hondurans decide the fate of their political system through a vote in Congress and recognition of the upcoming November 29th elections. According to a press release on the Senator’s website, the announcement came after he “secured a commitment from the Obama administration to recognize the Honduran elections on November 29th, regardless of whether former President Manuel Zelaya is returned to office and regardless of whether the vote on reinstatement takes place before or after November 29th.” The release continues, quoting Senator DeMint: “I trust Secretary Clinton and Mr. Shannon to keep their word, but this is the beginning of the process, not the end.”This announcement led to concern that the United States is determined to recognize the November 29th elections regardless of whether the Tegucigalpa-San José Accords are fully implemented, and therefore has given the Honduran Congress and the Micheletti government an excuse to hold on to power. During the daily press briefing last Friday, Department spokesman Ian Kelly was repeatedly asked if Senator DeMint’s statement was correct. Spokesman Kelly did not have an answer, however an official response to those questions was released on the State Department website later in the day, which ended with this statement: “Our commitment is to the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord and its implementation. Our commitment to support the Honduran elections is the product of that agreement. Failure to implement the accord could jeopardize recognition of the election by the international community.”
Latin American countries, including Brazil, are “loudly demanding Mr. Zelaya’s return,” according to the Wall Street Journal. This had created speculation that the United States’ role and image in Latin America could be jeopordized if the U.S. does not hold to their initial call for Zelaya’s reinstatement.Over the weekend, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who played an important role in the initial drafting of the San José Accord, also made a statement on the breakdown of the new Accord. According to the Spanish newspaper El Dia, Arias affirmed that “the de facto Honduran Government never had the will to solve the political crisis resulting from the coup d’etat, and specified that ‘they are only looking for, through delaying tactics, time to pass and for the elections to come (on November 29th), risking that the future Government will not be recognized by some countries.'”
According to RAJ at the “Honduras Coup 2009” blog, there is confusion on whether or not the Supreme Court will meet this week to discuss the legality of Zelaya’s restitution. Reports early in the day yesterday suggested that the Honduran National Congress announced it will wait until November 17th for the reports it has requested from the Supreme Court and the attorney general. A later report suggested that the Supreme Court had determined it would not give the report to Congress because “it has an appeal of the decree that removed him from power before it.” Yet a report issued around 8:00 pm Monday night suggested that the Supreme Court will convene on Wednesday to “analyze if the restitution of Manuel Zelaya Rosales should proceed, as the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord indicated.”
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and the acting president who deposed him in a June coup, Roberto Micheletti, arrived at an agreement last night to restore Zelaya to the presidency. Zelaya would complete his term under a power-sharing agreement, the product of a U.S. and OAS diplomatic offensive. The agreement still needs to be approved by the Honduran Congress, most of whose members supported the coup in the first place.
Acting President Micheletti announces the accord and lays out its main points (text / video).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton applauds the “breakthrough.” (text)
OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza lauds the accord as “a moment of great satisfaction.” (text)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is “encouraged.” (text)
In a private ceremony this morning, U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield and Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermúdez signed the “Complementary agreement for cooperation and technical assistance in defense and security,” which formalizes a U.S. presence at seven Colombian military bases for ten years. We still do not know what else is in this agreement, which was negotiated in secret and will not require the approval of either country’s Congress, though in the United States it will be shared with both houses’ foreign relations committees before it goes into effect. (We will add a link to the agreement once we obtain a copy.)
Declaration from the Colombian Presidency (text – English and Spanish)
The U.S. embassy in Bogotá says “this Agreement is a natural part of our relationship.” (text)
The U.S. embassy has produced a new “fact sheet” about the agreement, but it is only just over a page long. (PDF)
Negotiations in Honduras have reached another standstill, as the 6th point of the San José Accord – Zelaya’s return to the presidency – remains the major sticking factor. On Monday evening, both ousted President Manuel Zelaya and de facto President Roberto Micheletti said they are open to new proposals and that negotiations have not failed, yet they both have repeatedly rejected any proposal offered by the other side.
Last week, Zelaya set a deadline for negotiations to end on October 15th, or risk a delay in the planned November 29th elections. October 15th passed with no agreement. Since then, the deadline has been extended at least three times: first to Friday October 16th at noon, then to 4:00 pm on Friday, and then to Monday evening.
Here is an overview of the past week’s events in Honduras. All of our previous updates on Honduras can be found here.
Last Wednesday, reports emerged claiming that negotiators had reached an agreement on wording regarding the return of Zelaya to the presidency. The only step remaining was to run the new wording by Zelaya and Micheletti for approval. Micheletti rejected the text, and restated his view that “The 29th of November, no one, absolutely no human being, will be able to stop the elections in this country. They will be free and transparent. Here the anger, we won’t permit it, nothing from nobody.”
Last Friday at 4:00 pm, which was the third deadline offered by Zelaya, the Micheletti delegation made their “final” offer to Zelaya. Micheletti’s delegation proposed that the Supreme Court decide the issue of restitution, stating “As for the pretense of citizen José Manuel Zelaya Rosales to return to the Presidency of the Republic, we condition our accord on the institutional criteria of the Supreme Court of Justice, as the entity constitutionally charged with the application of the law.”In response, Zelaya suggested that Congress, not the Supreme Court, decide on the agreement: “We respectfully solicit the National Congress that, following the opinion of the pertinent instances, including the Supreme Court of Justice, if it considers it necessary, emits the corresponding decision to this point of the proposal of the San José Accord.”Neither delegation agreed to the other’s proposal, and the deadline to reach an agreement was extended again by the Zelaya delegation, giving Micheletti the weekend to decide whether to accept his proposal. A representative of Zelaya said on Friday that if no agreement was reached by Monday, “then the dialogue is broken.”
Late Monday, the Micheletti negotiators offered a new proposal: to wait for reports from the Congress and the Supreme Court to be published before taking up the question of Zelaya’s return to the presidency. Following the trend that has emerged throughout the negotiation process, Zelaya immediately rejected this proposal, calling it “insulting”. Both parties declared talks suspended once again, but stated they would remain open to new proposals.
Also on Monday, Micheletti repealed the decree that restricted constitutional freedoms, including curbs on protests and opposition media. As a result, Radio Globo, one of the media outlets shut down after the enactment of the decree, returned to the airwaves.
Former Secretary of State James Baker had an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for people to “stop looking backward” and instead to “look forward” to the November 29th elections and a compromise between Zelaya and Micheletti. He ends the op-ed, writing “The United States should embrace this realistic compromise and announce its support for the pending election in order to persuade the parties in Honduras and the countries of the Organization of American States to do the same. And as it advocates international recognition of the results of the election, the United States should, of course, do everything possible to help ensure that it is free and fair.”
Time’s Tim Padgett had an article on Friday suggesting that the United States may be changing its position on the November 29th elections. Padgett writes that “there are growing signs that the U.S. may be willing to abandon that condition. A number of well-placed sources in Honduras and the U.S. tell TIME that officials in the State Department and the U.S.’s OAS delegation have informed them that the Obama Administration is mulling ways to legitimize the election should talks fail to restore Zelaya in time.”
At the State Department’s daily press briefing today, spokesman Ian Kelly said, “We just urge the two sides to stick to it, and we urge the de facto regime in particular to help open a pathway for international support of the election by concluding the agreement. We believe that an agreement is – could lead to elections that are internationally recognized, and is ultimately the way out of this crisis.”
At the end of last week, at the meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance for Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the organization’s members discussed the possibility of imposing an economic embargo/blockade on Honduras. However, by the end of the meeting, the organization’s declaration only expressed support for democracy in Honduras and recognized ousted President Manuel Zelaya as the legitimate leader of the country.
A Reutersarticle reported last week that human rights groups have linked “at least 10 deaths to de facto rule under Roberto Micheletti.” The article continued to cite reports of beatings by soldiers, police using tear gas to disperse protesters, and threats being sent via text message to pro-Zelaya activists.A delegation from the Organization of American States went to Honduras yesterday to look into the reports of possible human rights violations since the June 28th coup d’etat. According to AFP, the delegation will spend two weeks in the country investigating the claims and speaking with members of both the de facto government and the groups opposing the coup.
Last Wednesday, the Organization of American States led a delegation of top officials to Honduras to commence a dialogue between the de facto Micheletti government and ousted President Manuel Zelaya. One day later, the OAS top officials, including U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon, left Honduras. While reports did not indicate a breakthrough in negotiations, the members of the delegation characterized their visit as “a positive step even though the rivals appeared as far apart as ever.”
Over the weekend, Micheletti announced a new decree that threatens broadcasters with closure for airing reports that “attack national security,” despite his announcement that he would repeal the decree suspending important civil liberties early last week.
Here is today’s update on the situation in Honduras, which covers the past few days.
Last week, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley commented on Assistant Secretary Thomas Shannon’s trip to Honduras with the OAS delegation at a Foreign Press Center briefing:
Tom Shannon, as the assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, is doing what we’d expect him to do. Today, you have a very important mission by the Organization of American States to Honduras. The United States has been very supportive of this mission, and it is appropriate that the United States should be a part of this mission.
Micheletti told the OAS delegation on Wednesday that “the elections will take place on November 29th, the only way they can be stopped is if they attack us or invade us.”Micheletti also told the OAS diplomats that “We are not afraid of the United States, nor of the State Department, nor of Mexico or Brazil. But we are afraid and panicked when it comes to Zelaya.”
Negotiators for ousted President Zelaya insisted last week that an agreement be found by October 15th, or they would risk “a delay in the late November presidential and legislative elections.”
On Thursday, the OAS delegation in Honduras released a statement which outlined the agenda for dialogue and the necessary conditions for dialogue to take place.The three agenda items agreed upon were:
a) The signing of the San José Accord;
b) The establishment of commissions for the purpose of conducting a detailed discussion and of proposing changes and updates to points in the San José Accord on which there is agreement, and to establish a timeline for their implementation.
c) The proposal and design of a methodological approximation of a new Political and Social Pact for Honduras.
The three conditions for dialogue were:
1) The reestablishment and permanency of all constitutional guarantees;
2) The restitution of all press media whose functions were interrupted; and
3) That normal access and consultation of President Zelaya and his representatives be allowed in the Table of Dialogue.
On Friday, the United Nations working group on mercenaries “voiced concern at reports that former paramilitaries from Colombia had been recruited to protect wealthy people and property in Honduras” after the coup d’etat, reports Reuters.The joint statement made by the working group urged “the Honduran authorities to take all practical measures to prevent the use of mercenaries within its territory and to fully investigate allegations concerning their presence and activities.”
On Saturday, Micheletti imposed a new decree, under which “the frequencies of radio or television stations may be canceled if they transmit messages that incite national hate and the destruction of public property.” The decree also allows government officials to monitor and control broadcast messages that “attack national security.”
According to the New York Times, the de facto Micheletti government has spent at least $400,000 on a lobbying campaign in Washington. The Washington Post cites the lobbying costs at at least $600,000.
Two Republican members of Congress, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) and Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) continue to express their support for the de facto regime in Honduras and pressure the Obama administration to recognize the November 29th elections. On the floor of the House of Representatives, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen spoke about her recent trip to Honduras, while Senator Jim DeMint published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal over the weekend.Here are excerpts from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s remarks:
I have just returned from Honduras, where I had the opportunity to see with my own eyes what is happening on the ground there. Let me tell you, Madam Speaker, it’s very quiet on the streets of Tegucigalpa. Despite the efforts of the pro-Zelaya camp to create the impression that chaos is reigning in Honduras, there are no tires burning in the streets, there are no massive protests urging Manuel Zelaya’s return, no collapse of democratic order or institutions.
The people of Honduras do not want Manuel Zelaya back in office. The Honduran people do not want outside actors infringing upon and determining their democracy and their rule of law. For the Honduran people, the November 29 elections are the solution, they are the way forward, and I couldn’t agree with them more.
Madam Speaker, I’m concerned that if we in the U.S. continue along this misguided path and continue to impose this misguided Zelaya-centric policy, that the goodwill and the respect and the admiration that the U.S. currently enjoys in Honduras will now start to dissipate. We can’t afford for that to happen. The United States has always been the beacon of democracy. How can we take this undemocratic way forward for Honduras?
While in Honduras, I spoke to dozens of Hondurans, from nonpartisan members of civil society to former Zelaya political allies, from Supreme Court judges to presidential candidates and even personal friends of Mr. Zelaya. Each relayed stories of a man changed and corrupted by power.
As all strong democracies do after cleansing themselves of usurpers, Honduras has moved on.
America’s Founding Fathers—like the framers of Honduras’s own constitution—believed strong institutions were necessary to defend freedom and democracy from the ambitions of would-be tyrants and dictators. Faced by Mr. Zelaya’s attempted usurpations, the institutions of Honduran democracy performed as designed, and as our own Founding Fathers would have hoped.
Hondurans are therefore left scratching their heads. They know why Hugo Chávez, Daniel Ortega and the Castro brothers oppose free elections and the removal of would-be dictators, but they can’t understand why the Obama administration does.
The high-level mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) arrived in Honduras today to begin a dialogue, dubbed the “Guaymuras Talks,” between ousted President Manuel Zelaya and the de facto government led by Roberto Micheletti. OAS representatives remain relatively positive that the new round of talks will successfully bring an end to the country’s current political crisis, yet neither party has backed down on the main roadblock: whether Zelaya should return to the presidency or not. So far, Zelaya’s representatives have insisted that he be restored to power unconditionally by October 15th, while Micheletti’s representatives are backing a plan to hold elections before allowing Zelaya’s reinstatement.
Here is today’s update on the situation in Honduras. Thanks to CIP Intern Hannah Brodlie, who contributed to today’s compilation.
The OAS high-level delegation, led by Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, arrived in Honduras this morning, “with the purpose of promoting dialogue and the restoration of democracy in this country.” In order to carry out the intended purpose, a “Dialogue Table” was installed among representatives of ousted President Manuel Zelaya and the de facto government in the Clarion Hotel in Tegucigalpa at 10:30 am this morning. The OAS has dubbed this round of talks as the “Guaymuras Talks.”The international delegation is composed of representatives from Guatemala, El Salvador, the United States, Mexico, Ecuador, Canada, Jamaica, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Argentina, and Spain. Among the members of the OAS mission is U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs Thomas Shannon. A Senate vote on Assistant Secretary Shannon’s appointment to be the U.S. ambassador to Brazil is currently being blocked, along with Arturo Valenzuela’s nomination to take Shannon’s place at the State Department. U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), disagrees with the stance the Obama Administration has taken on the current political crisis in Honduras.
During his opening remarks at the “Guaymuras Talks” today, OAS Secretary General Insulza explained that the restitution of Zelaya is still a main point in the negotiations, leading to a round of “boos” that did not cease until he finished his statement, according to La Prensa.
Army troops and police special operations officers have been heavily deployed throughout Tegucigalpa “in a bristling show of force as the talks began” in the Clarion Hotel, according to the Agence France-Presse.
OAS representatives have expressed strong hopes that their mission will successfully find a solution to the political crisis in Honduras, yet so far, neither party has publicly expressed a willingness to negotiate on one critical point: whether or not Zelaya should return to the Presidency. A Reuters article published today outlines the various outcomes that could result from the talks initiated today by the OAS. These outcomes include:1) A limited deal is reached, and talks drag on: The San José Accord “could be modified, but without movement on the key issue of Zelaya’s return the result may be a limited agreement to keep talking and concessions such as easing the security cordon around the Brazilian embassy.”2) Zelaya returns to the presidency with restrictions: “That would mean accepting the basic format of the San José accord. But the details of how to form a unity government and amnesty that would make his return possible would take longer.”3) A third party replaces both Micheletti and Zelaya: “Micheletti has already said he is willing to step aside if it helps resolve the crisis. But Zelaya seems less willing to accept that option given the international calls for his legitimate return. Another hurdle would be finding someone or a provisional coalition acceptable to all parties.”
4) The talks fail, Honduras is further isolated and street protests grow: “Honduras, Zelaya and Micheletti would risk international condemnation and isolation if talks fail or drag on for weeks and protests or repression of them could spin out of control.”
On Monday, Micheletti repealed the state of siege, which suspended important civil liberties. However, Zelaya dismissed the withdrawal of the emergency decree as a meaningless gesture, implemented only after arresting dozens of protestors and closing down two pro-Zelaya media outlets. “Roberto Micheletti continues to mock the people, declaring that he is completely revoking the decree after achieving the most possible harm,” Zelaya said.The two media organizations shut down as a result of the decree say that they still cannot broadcast normally, since seized equipment has not been returned. The owner of one of the shuttered media outlets called the lifting of the decree “a lie aimed at deceiving the international community.”
Twelve indigenous people of the Lenca population sought political asylum in the Guatemalan Embassy. The three women, four men and five children said that they had been persecuted by the Honduran police. The group currently remains inside the Guatemalan Embassy awaiting a decision. According to a representative of an indigenous rights organization, if the asylum request is denied, the group may remain inside the Embassy and wage a hunger strike.
Anti-Semitic remarks by Radio Globo host and staunch Zelaya supporter, David Romero, caused international furor since they were published by the Anti-Defamation League over the weekend. On September 25, Romero said, “There are times when I ask myself if Hitler was or was not correct in finishing with that race with the famous Holocaust. If there is a people that do damage in this country, they are Jewish, they are Israelis.”Romero has since apologized for his comments, noting that his own grandfather was a Jewish immigrant from Czechoslovakia. Additionally, the Anti-Defamation League noted that there are only approximately 100 Jewish families in Honduras.
Guatemalan indigenous leader and 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú commented on the Honduran political crisis, saying that it “is ideological, political, institutional and economic, but it is also Central American.” Menchú asked the United States to do moreto pressure the coup government to restore Zelaya to the presidency, since the crisis affects all of Central America. “The fingerprints of past dictatorships are not dead in Latin America. The offshoots of the dictatorships have more political and economic force.”
The advance mission for the upcoming Organization of American States (OAS) delegation of ten foreign ministers and Secretary General José Miguel Insulza arrived in Honduras last week to begin pushing for a dialogue between both de facto President Roberto Micheletti and ousted President Manuel Zelaya, and preliminary reports show that both parties have expressed a desire to talk.
Meanwhile, two different delegations of U.S. members of Congress traveled to Honduras on “fact-finding trips.”
Here’s is today’s update on the situation in Honduras:
Two delegations from the U.S. Congress traveled to Honduras on “fact-finding trips.”The first delegation, led by Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), arrived in Honduras on Friday, despite an attempt to block the trip by Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts). Sen. DeMint was joined by Rep. Aaron Shock (R-Illinois), Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Illinois), and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado). While in Honduras, the delegation met with de facto President Micheletti, as well as members of the Honduran Supreme Court, election officials and business and civic leaders.Sen. Kerry tried to prevent the fact-finding trip due to the hold Sen. DeMint has placed on the confirmations of Arturo Valenzuela as the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, and Tom Shannon as the ambassador to Brazil. However, with the help of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the delegation received permission directly from the Defense Department to travel to Honduras.Today, three of Florida’s members of Congress, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Díaz-Balart and Mario Díaz-Balart (all R-Miami), traveled to Honduras to meet with Micheletti and to express their support for the November 29th elections. While in Honduras, the delegation also planned to meet with representatives of the opposition and of ousted President Zelaya.
The four OAS functionaries who were expelled from Honduras one week ago arrived in Honduras on Friday to prepare for the OAS mission of ten foreign ministers and OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, due to arrive in Honduras on Wednesday.John Biehl, an OAS special envoy, held separate meetings with both ousted President Manuel Zelaya and de facto President Micheletti to advance the possibility of a dialogue, mediated by the OAS, between both parties. After his meetings, Biehl told reporters, “there will be a call next week for dialogue between the acting government and the other side and it will be accepted. That has already been agreed.”Reutersreports today, however, that while both leaders say they are ready for talks, their key demands remain unchanged: “Micheletti says Zelaya must face the courts and is resisting pressure to restore him to power, while Zelaya insists he be reinstated unconditionally.”Even though Secretary General Insulza was not due in Honduras until this Wednesday, it has been confirmed that he was in Honduras and met with de facto President Micheletti last week. An OAS press release reads:
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, confirmed on Saturday that in the last few days he met in Honduras with Mr. Roberto Micheletti. “The meeting was aimed at promoting a dialogue between the parties in the conflict with the goal of restoring democracy and the constitutional order in Honduras, with strict respect of the mandate given to the Secretary General by the General Assembly on July 4th”, Mr. Insulza said.
Zelaya told reporters that “in order to begin a ‘sincere’ dialogue with the interim government civil liberties must be restored.” Today, Micheletti announced that the Council of Ministers abolished the decree he imposed last week to suspend important civil liberties, stating that he made the decision to completely annul it since “it is no longer necessary because we have peace in the country.”
Thirty-eight farmers who were imprisoned on Wednesday after police and soldiers removed them from the National Agrarian Institute building are now on a hunger strike “to demand a just trial, the restitution of president Zelaya, and respect for our right to the land.”
Today Honduras entered the fifth day of restrictions on fundamental human rights, despite national and international condemnations of the decree issued by de facto President Roberto Micheletti on Sunday.
Here is today’s update on the situation in Honduras:
The UN Human Rights Council endorsed a proposal calling for an immediate end to all human rights violations in Honduras. The Council also requested an exhaustive report from UN High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay on human rights violations since the coup d’etat in Honduras.
A delegation of six Brazilian parliamentarians arrived in Honduras last night to verify the situation in the country as well as in the Brazilian embassy. While in Honduras, the delegation will meet with the Board of the National Congress, leaders of Honduran political parties, human rights organizations, representatives of the Supreme Court and members of the Brazilian community. They have said they do not hope to be mediators in the conflict, but hope to contribute a solution to the crisis.
U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) will travel to Honduras on Monday to conduct an “evaluation on the situation in the country and the state of North American interests as a result of the Administration’s poorly conducted focus on Zelaya.” Rep. Ros-Lehtinen plans to meet with de facto President Micheletti, members of his government, Cardinal Osacr Andres Rodriguez, representatives of Honduran community groups and American business leaders living in the country.
The Organization of American States has confirmed that an advance mission will arrive in Honduras on Friday, “with the goal of paving the way for the visit of a Delegation of Foreign Ministers and the Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, which would arrive in Honduras next week.”
An article by Andres Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald suggests that the Honduran presidential candidates may play a larger role in finding a negotiated solution to the current political crisis, “because nobody would want to be president of a country that would not have diplomatic recognition from any country.” A senior Obama administration official told Oppenheimer that the candidates “are a pressure point, not the solution.” And OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza said, “What I’m trying to do is getting representatives of Zelaya and Micheletti to sit on the same table, alongside the presidential candidates and other forces, to try to narrow down their differences along the lines of the San Jose agreements. We are trying to make that happen next Wednesday, during a scheduled visit by foreign ministers.”
Fundamental human rights remain suspended in Honduras, despite de facto President Roberto Micheletti’s announcement on Monday that he would consider revoking the decree that suspends such rights. It appears that the controversial decree has led to several cracks in support for the de facto government and some key coup supporters have suggested that negotiations could allow ousted President Manuel Zelaya to return to the presidency with strictly limited powers.
Here is today’s update on the situation in Honduras. Past updates can be read here.
Acting under the de facto government’s controversial decree restricting free speech and the right to freely assemble, Honduran police have begun removing and arresting Zelaya supporters from buildings where they were holed up for three months to protest the coup. Over 55 Zelaya supporters were removed and arrested from the National Agrarian Institute building in Tegucigalpa this morning.The anti-coup website, VosElSoberano.com, cited a complaint that Honduran police were seen removing documents from the National Agrarian Institute building after the eviction.According to a spokesman for the Honduran police, the evictions are “part of the decree, clear out government buildings. We are looking at other institutions that were taken over.”
Supporters of the de facto regime are starting to push for a negotiated solution to the current political crisis, a sign that their support for the de facto government may be waning. Adolfo Facusse, president of the National Industrial Association, proposed that Zelaya be both reinstated with limited powers and required to face prosecution on charges levied against him since he was deposed. The proposed agreement also includes sending foreign troops to Honduras to ensure that if Zelaya is reinstated, he would respect the limitations of his powers.The Los Angeles Times reports that a “secret session” was held at the residence of U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens with Honduran business leaders and senior politicians. The article suggests the general tone of the secret meeting indicated a shift in the tone of the de facto government supporters. “If the accord in fact limits any abuse of power, or political persecution, upon Mr. Zelaya’s reinstatement, [then] along those lines we can reach agreement,” a former Honduran president said Tuesday.
Even though Micheletti said on Monday that he would reconsider the move to impose a decree which suspends important constitutional rights, it remains in place today and will likely remain in place throughout the week. On Tuesday, however, Congressman Rigoberto Chang, of the conservative National Party, “made clear Congress will revoke an emergency security crackdown if the interim government does not.”Porfirio Lobo, the leading presidential candidate in Honduras, said the decree suspending constitutional rights could undermine the election results if not lifted. The National Party candidate said, “We’re totally against the decree that restricts individual guarantees and freedom of expression.”
Radio Globo immediately began to broadcast via the Internet after its headquarters was shuttered by the de facto government.
U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary Philip Crowley backed up U.S. Ambassador to the OAS Lewis Amselem’s comment on Zelaya’s actions being “irresponsible and foolish” yesterday at the daily press briefing:
We have said throughout this process that all sides need to act constructively, avoid the kind of provocative statements or actions that would precipitate violence and inhibit the resolution of this situation. And I think our acting representative simply said with regard to statements that President Zelaya and his supporters have made that they need to act in a more constructive and positive manner. So I think what he said yesterday is fully consistent with our concern that both sides need to take constructive action, affirmative action. Both sides ultimately need to sign on to the San Jose process and begin a transition to a new government that the people of Honduras can support.
U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens made a statement to the press yesterday, for the first time since the June 28th coup d’etat. Here are some excerpts from that statement, released by the Honduran newspaper, El Heraldo:
The United States’ policy has been very clear and is not very complicated, it is rather simple: support for democracy in Honduras and in any other country in the region is the pillar; it has always been our foreign policy and in this sense our policy has been very clear in condemning what happened on June 28.
As President Obama has said, one cannot just push a button and resolve everything; it is important that we think and that the solution for Honduras is not decided by a North American solution imposed by the United States or a South American solution.
I think it should be a Central American solution and therefore we support President Arias and hope it is a solution that Hondurans themselves can negotiate.
What worries us in Washington is democracy and human rights. Look, the decree that was emitted a few days ago that basically suspends fundamental and constitutional rights in Honduras is something that really concerns us.
One thing is fundamental: the rights of the people are inalienable and must not be limited or restricted in any way. The Honduran people have a great democratic vocation.
Just as those who violate human rights are doing great damage to the people, so are those who instigate violence.
The Honduran de facto government’s decision to issue a decree suspending important civil liberties on Sunday received widespread international condemnation yesterday. As a result, de facto President Roberto Micheletti again made various reversals late Monday, stating that he will consider rescinding the decree, re-inviting the OAS delegation to Honduras after not allowing the delegation to enter the country on Sunday, and offering a “big hug” to Brazilian President Lula da Silva only 24 hours after offering him an ultimatum.
Meanwhile, President Zelaya addressed the United Nations General Assembly via cellphone, likening the de facto regime to a “dictatorship.”
Here is today’s update on the situation in Honduras. Past updates can be found here.
International condemnation emerged yesterday in response to the decree issued by the de facto Micheletti government, which suspends civil liberties such as the freedom of speech and assembly and allowed for warrantless arrests for 45 days. Here are excerpts from some of the statements:U.S. Department of State:
The United States views with grave concern the decree issued by the de facto regime in Honduras suspending fundamental civil and political rights. In response to strong popular opposition, the regime has indicated that it is considering rescinding the decree. We call on the de facto regime to do so immediately.
The freedoms inherent in the suspended rights are inalienable and cannot be limited or restricted without seriously damaging the democratic aspirations of the Honduran people.
I am deeply concerned about developments in Honduras. A state of emergency has increased tensions. I note that the Congress of Honduras has rejected the suspension of civil liberties and urge that Constitutional guarantees including freedom of association, expression and movement be fully respected.
Threats on the embassy of Brazil in Honduras are unacceptable. International law is clear: sovereign immunity cannot be violated. Threats to the embassy staff and premises are intolerable. The Security Council has condemned such acts of intimidation. I do as well, in the strongest terms.
We call on the de facto government of Honduras to restore constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties, respect human rights and freedom of expression, accept international monitoring and mediation, and establish dialogue with the constitutionally elected administration of President Manuel Zelaya.
Honduras’s de facto government should immediately rescind an emergency decree that severely restricts press freedoms.
“Roberto Micheletti has effectively outlawed public criticism,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “This kind of decree has been the norm for authoritarian rulers – from Chile’s Pinochet to Cuba’s Castros – who tolerate freedom of speech only when it favors the government.”
The Honduran Congress told Micheletti that it would not approve the decree, which Honduran law requires it to do. The president of Congress José Alfredo Saavedra said, “we need to lower the pressure, and all begin to calm down so that we can have a dialogue.”Micheletti responded by announcing that he would consult with the Supreme Court to repeal the decree “as quickly as possible.” “This decision was made because (Zelaya) was calling for insurrection … but I’m going to listen to the other powers of the state and we’re going to make the most wise decision in the interests of Honduras.”The New York Times suggests the move by the Honduran Congress indicates differences within the de facto government: “The congressional response to the decree appears to reflect differences in strategy within the governing coalition, if not in the final goal. While the government seemed willing to disregard international opprobrium in its efforts to muzzle the opposition, the main parties in Congress have a strong interest in finding a political way out of the crisis.”
Hours after Micheletti said he would accept congressional calls to reverse the emergency decree, Honduran General Romeo Vasquez, who oversaw the ouster of President Zelaya, implored all sectors of Honduran society, on Channel 5 television, to join in resolving the country’s deepening crisis. “I am sure that Hondurans will find a peaceful solution to the crisis we are facing. All sectors of society should put aside their differences to unite the homeland.”
One day after giving Brazil his 10-day ultimatum to expel Zelaya from the embassy or move him to Brazil, Micheletti sent Brazilian President Lula da Silva “a big hug”, and told him not to worry because neither the Police nor the Army would enter the grounds of the embassy.
Micheletti also reversed his decision to not allow an OAS delegation to come to Honduras, one day after sending the advance mission for the OAS delegation home. On Monday, he invited an OAS mission to visit Honduras on October 7th in order to help start a dialogue between Zelaya and the de facto regime. The advance team, which made up the delegation refused entry into Honduras on Sunday, would be allowed to enter the country on October 2nd.
Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya addressed the UN General Assembly by cellphone on Monday from the Brazilian embassy during the address of Honduran Foreign Minister Patricia Isabel Rodas Bacas. Zelaya called on “the United Nations to give assistance to reverse this coup and to ensure that democracy is available to all nations of the world.” He also said, “If there was any doubt that what we have here is a dictatorship, now with everything that has happened in these past 93 days of repression, I believe those doubts no longer exist.”
The OAS held a Special Meeting of the Permanent Council yesterday to discuss the situation in Honduras, however, the international body was unable to agree on the wording of a resolution. All 33 member countries unanimously rejected the expulsion of the OAS delegation from Honduras and expressed concern about the emergency decree issued by the de facto regime, however, a consensus could not be reached on whether it should include a statement rejecting the results of the upcoming elections. The United States, Canada, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, and Peru rejected a move to include a statement on the upcoming elections, even though many member countries have assured that they will not recognize them.
U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary Philip Crowley spoke about Honduras during yesterday’s daily press briefing:
I think it’s time for the de facto regime to put down the shovel. With every action, they keep on making the hole deeper. It’s time for the de facto regime to move in a more constructive direction. So far, they have failed to do so.
We are concerned about the issue of civil rights and human rights in Honduras. It is having a significant impact on the Honduran people. But it’s also the reason why we have said clearly to the de facto regime that because of the environment on the ground, we will not recognize an electoral result as free and fair under the current circumstances. So, in fact, I think the de facto regime was thinking if we just get to late November, get to an election, it will resolve everything. It will not.
So you’re quite right; in order to have a viable electoral process, you have to have freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly. And to the extent that the de facto regime takes that away from the Honduran people, it further will exacerbate the situation, which is why we continue to call on the de facto regime to recognize the San Jose Accords, which, in fact, then calls for appropriate international support for an electoral process, including the introduction of election monitors, so that you can have a process that the Honduran people can believe in. It is one of the reasons why we have met with several of the presidential candidates so that we can further make clear to the de facto regime that under the present circumstances we will not recognize the result.