Arias’ Honduran Candidates Meeting? More Like Sizing Up the “Mafia” Dons
Once again the moonlighting mediator, Oscar Arias, held a meeting in San Jose with Honduran politicians who said pretty much what was expected. Their statements of support for a negotiated settlement, however vague, were for international consumption and withholding support for the return of President Zelaya was the only way not to piss off the boys back in Tegucigalpa. They rolled it straight down the alley.
Ostensibly, Arias’ goal in holding the meeting was to warn the four candidates for president that the result of any election held under a golpista regime would not be recognized by the international community and that postponement of the election is the only responsible thing to do. It’s difficult to decipher, but it appears that the majority of the candidates expressed a strong belief that the elections should take place, as scheduled, on November 29.
Candidate Oscar Ham does not believe the other candidates have sufficiently condemned the coup and, as a result, are accomplices. Candidate Porfirio Lobo said it wasn’t up to the candidates to decide whether or not Zelaya should return. And, Elvin Santos said whatever he could to eliminate any obstacle to becoming Honduras’ next president.
The Miami Herald headline is way off the mark (see below — it wouldn’t be the first time). Rather than calling a candidates meeting in San Jose, Arias was bringing all the “Mafia” bosses to the same table to observe them closely. There was much jockeying for position, bravado, and miles of subtext circulating in the air. It was the kind of meeting where the goal is to size everyone up, take note of budding alliances, and figure out which one is ready to break free of the group to take care of what has now become everyone’s Micheletti problem. I have suggested before that, Arias telling ambitious politicians the only thing that stands between them and an internationally-recognized election is Micheletti’s regime, is tantamount to giving a green light to overthrow him. It’s often the Don who is not invited to the meeting who gets whacked.
Honduran candidates support deal to restore Zelaya
By MARIANELA JIMENEZ
Associated Press Writer
The candidates released their statement after meeting with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, the chief mediator in the conflict who has warned that the Nov. 29 elections would have no credibility unless Manuel Zelaya returns to power beforehand.
However, the four candidates – including the two leading contenders – stopped short of directly calling on the interim Honduran government to drop its opposition to the U.S.-backed agreement, proposed weeks ago by Arias.
A fifth candidate, from a small leftist party, refused to sign the statement, complaining it was too weak to break the impasse gripping the Honduras since the June 28 coup.
“It’s necessary to condemn the military coup d’etat and the installation of a dictatorship. And the candidates present here demonstrated a passive attitude,” said Cesar Ham. “Therefore they can be considered accomplices in the coup.”
Soldiers flew Zelaya into exile at gunpoint on June 28, and no amount of international pressure, including the suspension of U.S. and European Union aid, has persuaded the interim government to reinstate him.
The Arias plan would restore Zelaya with limited powers to finish his constitutional term, which ends in January. It also requires that Zelaya abandon his ambitions to change the Honduran constitution, an effort which alienated Congress, the military and his own party, eventually prompting his ouster.
Zelaya has said he would accept the compromise.
The other four candidates released a statement saying that the proposal “could offer a balanced solution to the political crisis that Honduras is going through.”
The statement did not directly mention Zelaya. At a news conference, the four candidates evaded questions about whether they supported his return to office.
Instead, they called on the United States and other countries to lift sanctions against Honduras and to respect the outcome of the elections, emphasizing that the vote was scheduled, and the candidates were chosen, well before the coup.
“These sanctions are affecting the Honduran people,” said Elvin Santos, the candidate for the ruling Liberal Party. “The international community cannot push Honduras to the precipice and it should suspend these actions.”
Zelaya is from the Liberal Party, one of two major parties, and so is Honduras’ interim leader Roberto Micheletti, who steadfastly refuses to allow Zelaya’s return.
Micheletti criticized Arias on Wednesday for refusing to support the elections held under the interim government.
Arias “has stopped being a proper mediator of the crisis in Honduras,” Micheletti told Radio America.
Zelaya’s critics feared he would seek to extend his time in office by abolishing a ban on presidential re-election, as his leftist ally Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela. Zelaya denies that was his goal, but the military ousted him after he defied a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum to ask Hondurans whether an assembly should rewrite the constitution.
Santos’ chief rival for the presidency, Porfirio Lobo of the National Party, said it was not up to the candidates to decide whether or not Zelaya should return to power.
Arias spoke only briefly at the news conference, saying his proposal would “bring international recognition to the electoral process in Honduras.”
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