Zelaya Speaks

In a significant development in hemispheric relations, the Obama
admininstration yesterday condemned the June 28 Honduras
coup d'etat
more strongly than ever, announced the cutoff of
additional millions in economic aid and declared it would not accept
the legitimacy of elections under the auspices of the coup government.

In a significant development in hemispheric relations, the Obama
admininstration yesterday condemned the June 28 Honduras
coup d'etat
more strongly than ever, announced the cutoff of
additional millions in economic aid and declared it would not accept
the legitimacy of elections under the auspices of the coup government.

In an interview shortly after his meeting with Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, Honduran president Manuel Zelaya pronounced the US
decisions "a great step forward" for the Honduran popular resistance to
the coup and a "positive message in favor of democracy."

Following the State Department meeting, a US spokesperson announced the
termination of "a broad range of assistance" to Honduras as a spur to
encourage the return of President Zelaya and democratic processes to the
country, which has been under repression for two months.

Zelaya told The Nation that the US would terminate multi-year
Millennium Challenge grants in the range of $200 million, involving funds
for roads, ports and infrastructure. Clinton chairs the Millennium
Challenge corporation, which meets next week.

Asked if Clinton intended a message to the coup regime in Honduras,
Zelaya responded forcefully that it was a "direct blow in the face of
[Roberto] Micheletti" because "the golpistas' [coup organizers] plan was
to negotiate with the candidates for an exit strategy so that they don't
have to pay for their crimes, and get away with their crimes after an
election. When you don't recognize the legitimacy of the elections, you
are breaking up the plan of the golpistas."

With these decisions, the Obama administration has made clear that it
embraces the Latin American consensus that the coup was an illegitimate
transfer of power. "Mexico, Central and Latin America already had taken
a position on the elections. We were only missing the United States. Now
in light of these statements, the entire continent is condemning these
elections under the de facto regime," Zelaya said.

When probed on the conditions when the sanctions might be lifted, Zelaya
said only "when democracy is restored and President Zelaya returns." He
said he is "prepared to return independently of any US plans" in order
to "protect the population."

There will be "a permanent convulsion" and a "permanently ungovernable
country" if he cannot return, and "that's what everybody wants to
avoid." The social movements in Honduras "are not willing to go back to
the way things were before," he noted.

What the June 28 coup was able to prevent, for now, was an advisory
referendum planned for three days later on whether there should be a
constituent assembly to rewrite the Honduras constitution, promoting
greater participatory democracy. But the same coup also provoked the
rise of a new social movement with its own dedicated members, martyrs
and new memories.

"The grassroots movement," Zelaya said, has only one purpose, the
transformation of Honduras, including deep structural changes. "This
movement is now very strong. It can never be destroyed," he said. Zelaya
believes that the reforms of his administration, including an increased
minimum wage, subsidies to small farmers, cuts in bank interest rates
and reductions in poverty levels "are the causes which irritated the
ruling elite of Honduras."

Zelaya said he hopes that Clinton understands that "the same opponents
of Obama in the US are mine in Honduras. The transnational trade, oil
and banking systems. Those who do not want health insurance here are the
same as those who do not want to pay a living wage in Honduras."

For example, he pointed out, "during Bush there was no coup. The coup in
Honduras during the first six months of the Obama presidency was a
litmus test. The right-wing groups in America who are supporting the
coup are betting that Obama will not solve the problem. I trust that
that he will."

Warming to the point, Zelaya went on to argue that the coup plotters in
Honduras "have copied some reactionary sectors in Washington," who
publicly say that Obama "has no power, that he is weak, weaker than
Jimmy Carter, that we should not pay any attention to the Obama
administration, and they refer to him as the black boy who doesn't know
where Tegucigalpa is."

But the right-wing groups from Latin America to the Beltway have
employed a Democrat and ardent Clinton supporter, Lanny Davis, to lobby
for their interests in the capital, or what Zelaya calls "the empire of
capital." Democratic consultants also are sprinkled in the coup
delegations to the Costa Rican talks.

Perhaps no lobbyist is closer to the Clintons than Lanny Davis. When his
name was raised critically by Zelaya during the meeting, the secretary
of state did not acknowledge that Davis was her longtime family ally
but instead took notes on Zelaya's claim of Davis's false charges and
promised to investigate them. "She didn't tell me what she would
investigate," he added, with a good-natured chuckle.

For Clinton's State Department, the tone of the meeting marked a shift
from frosty previous statements on the coup. After Obama's initial
observation that an undemocratic coup had taken place, State Department
spokesman Philip Crowley said that a coup had not taken place, in legal
terms, and ridiculed Zelaya for being allied with Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez. "If that is the lesson that President Zelaya has
learned from this episode," he remarked amidst laughter in a July State
Department briefing, "that would be a good lesson." On August 4, a State
Department letter to Senator Richard Lugar said Zelaya's "insistence on
taking provocative actions...led to a confrontation that unleashed the
events that led to his removal." The term coup d'etat was not used in
the letter.

Asked yesterday by
The Nation whether the State Department certified what happened
as a coup d'etat or was calling it a coup, Zelaya responded, "I
do not know the details of US law, but in the communique issued today
the United States on behalf of the State Department said that in
relation to the coup in Honduras various parts of the Honduran
government are involved: the legislative, judicial and military. The
State Department directly implicates the Congress, the army and the
Court of Honduras in the coup."

Whatever Lanny Davis's spin may be, yesterday's developments represent a
sharp rejection by the Obama administration of going it alone in Latin

The State Department's Crowley was not present at the meeting yesterday,
which included longtime Latin American diplomat Tom Shannon, National
Security Council representative Dan Restrepo, US ambassador to Honduras
Hugo Llorens, and a different public relations spokesman, Ian Kelly.

The present tension may be winding down, but it is not over. Micheletti,
abandoned by the Americans in his quest to legitimize the coup, is under
enormous pressure to accept the recommendation of Costa Rican President
Oscar Arias that he step down, which would be a huge victory for Latin
America. On the other hand, any return to Honduras by Zelaya could be
volatile, with the right-wing wanting his arrest or even his death. He
cannot run for re-election under the present constitution. There is no
visible candidate to replace him, and the constituent assembly proposal
is off the agenda for now (or "por ahora", as a young Hugo Chavez
once said upon release from prison).

The future may lie with the social movements that have risen against the
military coup, with Zelaya serving as a transitional hero to the
mobilized and awakened people on the streets of Honduras who are trying
to take an unpredictable future into their own hands.

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