Honduran Crisis Outfoxes US Attempts at Negotiation

Representatives of the Honduran resistance against the military coup
in Honduras arrived in Los Angeles this week as the Obama administration
appeared to be abandoning its support for deposed President Manuel
Zelaya and acceptance of the June 28 coup.

The four Hondurans, traveling overnight after four months of street
resistance and state repression, displayed the diversity of the new
social movement born in the wake of the June 28 coup. Their first
meeting was hosted by Carecen, an agency long supportive of Central
American immigrants.

Marvin Andrade, executive director of Caracen, was sharply critical
of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's handling of the Honduran crisis.
Clinton claimed earlier this week that an historic breakthrough had been
achieved, only to realize, no sooner than the ink was dry, that the
agreement failed to restore President Manuel Zelaya to power, even

No other Latino political or labor leaders were present to welcome
the Honduran delegation. The reason suggested by one source close to the
delegation was "not wanting to be critical of the Obama administration."

The four delegates gave brief and pointed testimony against the coup
and any US plan to extend legitimacy to the upcoming presidential
election scheduled for November 28.

Iris Munguia, born on a Chiquita banana plantation and now an
organizer the Honduran banana workers union, denounced the presidential
election, predicting electoral fraud because the coup regime controls
the ballot boxes. Arrested in July, Munguia described new emergency laws
passed to "legalize the repression" and impose long jail terms as
further impediments to a fair and open electoral process.

Sara Aguilar, formerly of the Honduran public defenders' office,
estimated 113 deaths from the police repression thus far, many of them
victims followed and killed in their own homes, while no police officers
have been brought to account. In some cases, lawyers have been beaten
when seeing their clients in jail. Aguilar has taken leave from her
public defender job to coordinate the new Movement for Dignity and
Justice (MADJ).

Indyra Mendoza, a lesbian feminist working on documentary films,
testified how the nature of the coup is imprinted on the bodies of
women, especially street workers, who are beaten on their breasts and
sexual organs. Large numbers of the dead and tortured are from
homosexual communities, she said.

Esequias Doblado, a legal adviser to the Committee for the Defense
of Human Rights (CODEH) explained in detail how President Zelaya's call
for a consulta, or referendum, on public sentiment towards a constituent
assembly was fully legitimate ["una consulta, nada mas"] and not a
rational reason for his military expulsion from the country. While ruled
unconstitutional by the coup regime, the aspiration towards a
constituent assembly, as a means of expanding participatory democracy,
has grown in popularity in the weeks since the coup.

It appears that whatever the fate of Zelaya, the coup leaders
["golpistas"] have provoked a unified national opposition movement which
die not exist before the coup, and has not existed in Honduras for
decades. The scale and intensity of the movement was not anticipated
either by the golpistas or the United States, and is not likely to
decline significantly during or after an election this month. Honduras
may be in the process of irreversible, unpredictable change.

Meanwhile Secretary Clinton has announced an empty agreement that
leaves the coup regime intact and Zelaya trapped inside the Brazilian
embassy. Though important details may emerge, it appears that US
officials at the highest levels misled themselves into an October 30
agreement that Clinton claimed was unprecedented. Top officials were
spreading the word that the agreement was a done deal only hours before
it unraveled, leaving the White House isolated and embarrassed. Sen.
John Kerry called the development "an abrupt change" that "caused the
collapse of an accord it helped negotiate."

One after another, a series of longtime Latin American diplomats as
well as Clinton allies like Lanny Davis have pressured for a weaker
policy than was originally declared by President Obama. These diplomats
and lobbyists view the crisis through a neo-Cold War lens in which
Venezuela is the continental enemy. In this view, the negation of the
coup and restoration of Zelaya, however temporary, would be a point for
Venezuela. This binary focus neglects the fact that virtually the entire
Organization of American States, the European Union, and even
Clinton-appointed mediator Oscar Arias, have insisted on the return of
Zelaya as a precondition for recognizing the elections.

The newest State Department voice to muddy the waters was W. Lewis
Amselem, a career diplomat whose previous postings included Guatemala
and Bolivia, and who was foreign policy adviser to the US Southern
Command. Amselem made an astonishing argument Tuesday that the OAS
should give up its opposition to the coup and accept the coming

"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 the world of
magical realism?"

Speaking to the OAS the week before, Amselem warned that the only
practical course is for the organization to move forward with the
election without Zelaya. This would mean an election not only without
Zelaya, who is barred from another term in office, but without any
progressive or independent candidate, since those potential candidates,
such as union leader Carlos Reyes, are boycotting the election as a

Thus the current US position is to accept the June 28 coup with its
goal of eliminating Zelaya, electing a new conservative government, and
regaining legitimacy in the OAS, the United Nations and other
international organizations. As Amselem said, "For us to adopt a
position that we cannot 'recognize' a Honduran government that emerges
from conversations between the two parties, or from the electoral
process, could leave the people of Honduras in the hands of those who
created the current disaster in the first place...will some in this
assembly try to have us condemn an entire nation to the fate of the
ghostly Flying Dutchman, the ship of 17th century legend doomed to sail
the seas forever without ever reaching safe haven?"

This drama is not over as election day approaches. Behind the scenes
pressure now will be placed on Zelaya, and his Brazilian and regional
allies, to accept the coup and its consequences by honoring the November
election. Attempts to salvage a face-saving scenario that briefly
returns Zelaya to office will be attempted as well.

But it is apparent that the hawks in the State Department, with
their allies in business and military sectors across Latin America, have
won their skirmish against the perceived threat of change in tiny
Honduras. The coup is becoming a fait accompli.

The Honduran coup was not only aimed at Zelaya, Venezuela and the
new left of Latin America, but against the perceived potential of the
new Obama administration as well. Time will tell whether the new
American president understands and accepts this fate, or eventually
fights back.

In any event, the small Honduran delegation continues seeking to
find an audience in America, in the faded tradition of the solidarity
movements that arose in the 1980s.

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