Honduran National Resistance Update 10/14
The time is telling that Micheletti said “no.” Honduras Coup 2009 has the info.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Zelaya, in a phone conversation with reporters of Radio Globo said the gordian knot, at this point, is the mechanics of his restitution.
Micheletti , in a press conference at the Presidential palace, is saying that the only thing being discussed is Zelaya’s restitution after the elections in November.
Update: El Tiempo has more details on what Micheletti said in his press conference. He said there was no accord for the restitution of Zelaya because only the Supreme Court and Congress can decide if Zelaya returns to power. “There is no agreement to return the President elected in November, 2005.”
“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.”
And La Tribuna reports that the Micheletti delegation put out a press release stating that they would take up the subject of restitution tomorrow. Micheletti said that the Zelaya team is asking that Congress be allowed to determine if Zelaya returns to power, but its clearly the function of the Supreme Court to make that determination. Micheletti denied that there had been any agreement so far, and that he met with his delegation only to hear a progress report.
Minutes after meeting with Micheletti, Vilma Morales said “we haven’t reached a consensus on this point (resitution of Zelaya) but several interesting possibilities are on the table and we are working on them.”
In other words, Micheletti has rejected the consensus reached by the two negotiating teams.
Time will tell . . .
>Honduras rivals appear close to a deal
Wed Oct 14, 2009 4:59pm EDT
* Negotiator says chance of a solution to Honduran crisis
* Leaders need to approve proposed deal
* Army chief says significant progress made (Adds quotes from Micheletti, analyst)
By Luis Rojas Mena
TEGUCIGALPA, Oct 14 (Reuters) – Honduran negotiators reached a deal that could resolve a crisis sparked when the army ousted President Manuel Zelaya in a coup, but it needs to be approved by Zelaya and the de facto government that replaced him.
“I wouldn’t talk of an end to the political crisis, but an exit, yes,” Victor Meza, a close aide to Zelaya, told reporters after envoys of both the leftist president and de facto leader Roberto Micheletti met in the capital.
“We have agreed on one unified text that will be discussed and analyzed by President Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti,” he said.
The June 28 coup triggered Central America’s worst crisis in years and has become a test for U.S. President Barack Obama after he promised better relations with Latin America.
The central issue being discussed was the return of Zelaya to power, although Micheletti, a veteran politician who took office after the putsch, said the Supreme Court would have to decide the future of his rival.
“We are going to meet with the people from the commissions right now. As I understand it, Zelaya is asking that Congress determine if he can return or not,” Micheletti told state television. “But it is the Supreme Court that has to decide.”
Army chief Romeo Vasquez, a key figure in the coup, said a deal appeared close. “I know that we have advanced significantly, we are almost at the end of this crisis,” he told local radio HRN.
Zelaya was toppled and forced into exile by soldiers but slipped back into Honduras last month and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy in the capital to avoid arrest.
The United States and other foreign governments have threatened not to recognize elections called for November 29 if democracy is not restored before that date.
Heather Berkman, an analyst for political risk consultants Eurasia Group, said the looming elections had increased pressure on the de facto government to find a solution. “The real concern of the political and economic elites is that the international community will not recognize the elections,” Berkman said shortly before Meza said a deal had been reached. (Additional reporting by Magdalena Morales and Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Kieran Murray)
>The following three articles are from the website of the Honduran Embassy in Washington:
October 14, 2009
PRESS CONFERENCE BY FOREIGN MINISTER OF HONDURAS
The Foreign Minister of Honduras, speaking at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon, called on the international community to hold firm in its non-acceptance of the authorities installed by the 28 June coup in her country if there was no resolution of the situation by a 15 October deadline.
“We hope that in the coming days the international community will remain vigilant,” Foreign Minister Patricia Isabel Rodas said. “We cannot accept that a small group, after rising up in arms, can be stronger than the international community,” she added, stressing that a restoration of the Government had been set as a precondition for talks sponsored by the Organization of American States (OAS), which were now suspended.
She emphasized her Government’s non-negotiable demand for the restoration of President Manuel Zelaya, who had been forced out of Honduras by the military, but returned to the country on 21 September, taking refuge in the Brazilian embassy.
Not resolving that situation by 15 October would put in jeopardy the holding of presidential elections that had been set for November, she said. She maintained that if that poll was held under the authority of the coup’s perpetrators, it would legitimize what she called “succession by force”. “Elections are a right, not the way to resolve coups, not the way of to resolve illegitimate situations,” she added.
If the de facto Government, led by Roberto Micheletti, did not meet the deadline, she expressed hope that the international community would review the need for “perhaps more thorough sanctions on the Honduran regime”.
Asked by correspondents what that might mean, Ms. Rodas suggested pressure on the perpetrators of the coup through their businesses and banks could help. “We must isolate the perpetrators and make sure they are not legitimized”, she said, adding that the Honduran people, meanwhile, would continue their peaceful struggle.
She thanked the entire international community for their reactions so far, but noted that 70 per cent of Honduran trade and investment involved the United States, which could use multilateral mechanisms to apply direct sanctions to the perpetrators of the coup.
In regard to compromise proposals such as the installation of a caretaker President between the elections and the inauguration date in January, she insisted her Government and people would refuse to accept such illegal mechanisms, warning: “We mustn’t find unconstitutional ways to resolve an unconstitutional situation.”
“We want a return to the day before the coup d’état”, she specified, explaining that: “We don’t want to put a balm on the wound. We have to cure the wound”.
She stressed, in addition, that the human rights situation in Honduras was only getting worse, with violations increasing on the part of the de facto authorities and President Zelaya under a constant “state of siege” in an embassy surrounded by police and military forces and illuminated by stadium lights. He was subject to constant torture through noise, light and threats of assault and death, she maintained.
The regime had virtually suspended all constitutional guarantees, including freedom of the press, and wanted to impose an election to legitimize its crime, she said, adding that President Zelaya had not called for violent action at any point, and that the violence was utilized only by the coup perpetrators.
Asked about the denunciation of the de facto regime’s use of Colombian mercenaries and its acquisition of arms, including chemical weapons, from a Jewish dealer, Ms. Rodas clarified that her Government had joined in the United Nations working group on the use of paramilitaries in its denunciation of the use of such soldiers. In the case of the weapons being supplied to the Honduran army, an individual had been denounced, not his people or his country of origin.
Unfortunately, she said, that denunciation was being used to accuse her Government of prejudice by lobbyists in the United States hired by the new regime for $300,000. She said they had used a new model for forced succession, which she called “Launch a coup and then hire lobbyists.”
>>In the following statement, UN Secretary-General’s spokesperson disavows ridiculous Honduran press reports about UN weighing in on legality of the Honduran coup.
October 14, 2009
New York, 14 October 2009 – Statement Attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Honduras
The United Nations wishes to clarify that its position, regarding the legality of the removal of President Zelaya in Honduras has been clearly articulated by the General Assembly Resolution 63/301 adopted on 1 July 2009. This resolution “condemns the coup d’etat in the Republic of Honduras that has interrupted the democratic and constitutional order and the legitimate exercise of power in Honduras.”
A recent Honduran media report appears to refer to an analysis submitted by a consultant as representing the views of the Department of Political Affairs This is highly misleading. The Department of Political Affairs routinely receives reports and analyses of this type from consultants, academics and other experts. But its views are strictly in line with that outlined in the General Assembly Resolution.
The Secretary-General urges the parties in Honduras to avoid distractions at this critical moment in the negotiations and remain focused on arriving at a consensual agreement to end the crisis in Honduras through dialogue.
He continues to strongly support OAS-led efforts to assist the parties in reaching a solution.
Las Naciones Unidas desea aclarar que su posición, sobre la legalidad de la destitución del Presidente Zelaya en Honduras ha sido claramente expresada por la Asamblea General Resolución 63/301 aprobada el 1 de julio de 2009. Esta resolución condena el golpe de Estado en la República de Honduras, que ha interrumpido el orden democrático y constitucional y el legítimo ejercicio del poder en Honduras.â
Un reciente informe de los medios de comunicación hondureños parece referirse a un análisis presentado por un consultor que representa las opiniones del Departamento de Asuntos Políticos Esto es altamente engañoso. El Departamento de Asuntos Políticos de forma rutinaria recibe los informes y análisis de este tipo de consultores, académicos y otros expertos. Sin embargo, sus opiniones son estrictamente de acuerdo con el esbozado en la resolución de la Asamblea General.
El Secretario General insta a las partes en Honduras para evitar distracciones en este momento crítico en las negociaciones y seguir centrados en llegar a un acuerdo consensuado para poner fin a la crisis en Honduras a través del diálogo.
Se sigue apoyando firmemente los esfuerzos liderados por la OEA para ayudar a las partes a llegar a una solución.
October 13, 2009
Congreso Nacional República de Honduras C.A.
October 12, 2009
Dear Congressman & Senators:
We the undersigned members of the National Congress of Honduras send you a cordial and attentive greeting. Our country, Honduras, faces its biggest challenge since the return to democracy in the 1980s when, on June 28, 2009, a group of civilians and members of the armed forces used military force to illegally depose the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, who was violently and arbitrarily detained and exiled, consummating the coup d’etat that has subjugated and repressed our entire society. In its efforts to consolidate their power, the coup plotters have unleashed an expensive lobbying campaign that aims to persuade US public opinion that no coup against democracy took place in Honduras and that all their actions were carried out in conformity with the law.
This argument now has little force as it has collapsed under its own weight. But despite the weakness of the original argument, a study by the U.S. Library of Congress backs the thesis put forth by the coup plotters. However, the aforementioned study is contradictory and suffers from a series of errors and biases that disqualify it as a correct and objective analysis of what has happened in our country. The study recognizes that no procedure for impeachment exists in the Honduran Constitution and asserts that Congress “implicitly interpreted” the Constitution when it automatically transformed its authority to “disapprove of the conduct of the executive”—a censure measure of sorts with no legal consequences—into a procedure for impeachment. This assertion is erroneous.
There is ample precedent within the Supreme Court of Justice establishing that: “The ultimate and definitive interpreter of the Constitution of the Republic is the Supreme Court through its Constitutional chamber. ” Article 72 of the Law of Constitutional Justice stipulates the express and exclusive authority of the Constitutional Chamber to interpret the Constitution and this is manifest in each and every ruling issued by said tribunal. To take one example, the first ruling concerning the matter of who is responsible for interpreting the Constitution, handed down bythe Constitutional Chamber on May 7, 2003, categorically established that, in accordance with the principle of the separation of powers, the National Congress lacks the authority to interpret the Constitution.
Although Congress attempted to ignore this ruling of the Supreme Court—refusing to authorize its publication and approving other laws that contravene it—it is still in effect in so far as its judicial implications are concerned. Since the Supreme Court issued this ruling, the National Congress had not attempted to interpret the Constitution again. It’ is important to emphasize that four years after this historic ruling of May 7, 2003, the current de facto president, Roberto Micheletti, asked the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional a constitutional amendment that prohibited him from running for president, arguing that Congress had overstepped its powers. While it is perfectly clear that the National Congress lacks the authority to legitimately interpret the Constitution, the Library of Congress study also erroneously asserts that interpretations of our Constitution can be implicit. Under none of the twelve constitutions Honduras has adopted since its independence from Spain has an implicit interpretation of the Constitution, or of any law adopted to implement the Constitution, ever taken place. Interpretations have customarily been explicit, stating clearly what law has been interpreted and explaining the legal implications of the interpretation. It is worth clarifying that in decree 161-2009, in which the legislative branch deposes president Zelaya, there is no explicit mention on the part of Congress whereby the authority to “disapprove of the conduct of the executive” is interpreted as an impeachment procedure. We regret that in the course of its research for this analysis, the Library of Congress only interviewed the lawyer Guillermo Perez Arias, who in Honduras is not considered an academic authority on the subject of constitutional law, and neglected to consult other experts on the subject. By choosing to only interview Perez Arias, who has also publicly stated his support for the coup, the Library of Congress has severely undermined the balance and objectivity that form the basic normative criteria of any academic and journalistic inquiry. In light of the above, we the undersigned, all members of the National Congress, ask you to support any initiative that would allow the return to the democratic and constitutional order of our country by means of the reinstatement of the legitimate president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, in accordance with the San Jose Accord, which we consider the best alternative to resolve Honduras’ current political crisis.
MARIA MARGARITA ZELAYA
GLADYS DEL CID NIETO
JOSE RODRIGO TROCHEZ
MANUEL DE JESUS VELASQUEZ
JOSE DE LA PAZ HERRERA
A good crop of stories today!
Justifications for the removal of the Honduran president ignore one crucial fact: there’s no such thing as a constitutional coup.
Photo available by Demotix
|first published Oct 13, 2009|
A lesson of the forcible removal of President Zelaya from Honduras is that coups can still occur in Latin America. Make no mistake: what happened was a coup. It doesn’t matter that the military acted on a court order – courts were complicit with the coup in Chile in 1973. It doesn’t matter that the architects and beneficiaries were civilians, as was the case in Ecuador in 2000, or that the coup itself was a relatively gentile affair by historical standards. It doesn’t matter that the president has occasionally behaved idiotically.
What does matter is that nothing the president did justifies his removal by force without due process. It matters that Zelaya was sent into exile rather than arrested and brought before a judge, and that the de facto regime has not proven in a court of law that the president broke the law. (What is more, he did not break the law: at no time did Zelaya propose to change the re-election rule, nor could he have done so before leaving office.) And it matters that the actions of Micheletti and his cronies violated the letter and the spirit of the law and were also inconsistent with basic principles inherent in all constitutions.
And please, let us not fall into the trap of calling this a constitutional coup. What is a constitutional coup anyway? The concept, which has no place in law or scholarship, is at best a trope to designate a Machiavellian ruse whereby a constitution is changed by what appear to be constitutional means when, in fact, it is emasculated to perpetuate incumbents in power. A coup is, by definition, a change in the constitutional order by non-constitutional means. And that is exactly what happened in Honduras.
You might say, “But the constitution has not been changed, it has been upheld.” Wrong! The Honduran constitution has been interrupted and altered. The current de facto regime holds power by virtue of non-electoral and non-constitutional means. And a new rule has been added to Honduran politics: don’t even think about constitutional change or you’ll be exiled or arrested.
The fact that the Micheletti gang can find articles of the constitution that support what they have done is irrelevant. Constitutional framers are no smarter than the rest of us, and they often write dumb things into constitutions. The Honduras constitution is full of absurd articles that shouldn’t be there, and is missing essential articles that should (most crucially, an impeachment clause). But it also contains principles inherent in all constitutions – principles that have been violated even as the coup-mongers point to formalities in the constitution that they feel justify their actions.
This brings us to the challenge we now face. The Western Hemisphere must become a coup-free zone. Now you might say, don’t we already have an Inter-American Democratic Charter that is supposed to make the coup a thing of the past? Well, in fact, one of the biggest problems with the Charter is that it does not define or specify what counts as an “unconstitutional interruption or alteration of the constitutional democratic order.” Yes, the Charter describes democracy, and does so rather comprehensively. But it does not define the obverse: the features of a non-democratic regime.
What is a coup? I suggest a method for discerning coups, based on the theory that “if it waddles like a duck, flaps like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.” Here are some of the quacks, flaps, and waddles that count as coups:
Arbitrary or illegal termination of the tenure in office of any democratically elected official by any other elected official.
Arbitrary or illegal appointment, removal, or interference in the appointment or deliberations of members of the judiciary or electoral bodies.
Interference by non-elected officials, such as military officers, in the jurisdiction of elected officials.
Use of public office to silence, harass, or disrupt the normal and legal activities of members of the political opposition, the press, or civil society.
Failure to hold elections that meet generally accepted international standards of freedom and fairness.
Violation of the integrity of central institutions, including constitutional checks and balances providing for the separation of powers.
Failure to hold periodic elections or to respect electoral outcomes.
- Systematic violation of basic freedoms, including freedom of expression, freedom of association, or respect for minority rights.
The coup in Honduras fulfills conditions 1, 3, 4, 6, and 8; and 5 is imminent. Let’s call a duck a duck.
What about Zelaya? Did he not also act in defiance of both the judiciary and election authorities and, therefore, violate conditions 2 and 6? I’m not persuaded. Zelaya did not purge or stack the Supreme Court or electoral authorities; he did not close Congress; he did not suspend the constitution. Moreover, to remove Zelaya because he insisted on a non-binding consultation is like hitting a child for hitting another child. Imagine what would happen if we were to generalize this practice. Evo Morales could dismiss every prefect who held a referendum on autonomy in Bolivia.
Honduras’ de facto leaders have opened a Pandora’s box inside of which quivers every impulse to repress, censor, abuse power, and violate human rights. There is a danger that the events in Honduras may be repeated elsewhere, either in the immediate neighbourhood or in the Andes. But if they spark a move to clarify the meaning of a coup, and this is incorporated into the Democratic Charter, we could very well find that the threat to democracy is also an opportunity to improve the way we support it.
This is a revised version of a talk presented at the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, Ottawa, October 7, 2009.
>Juan Barahona, a member of President Zelaya’s negotiating team was replaced by another member of President Zelaya’s team. Unfortunately, the replacement of Barahona is being used to accuse President Zelaya of backing away from the Resistance movement. This is not the case as Honduras Coup 2009 explains.
>US doing a little pot stirring in Tegucigalpa? The US invited members of various sectors of Honduras society to meet at the US embassy a few days ago. Gregory Maggio, a functionary at the embassy, said that the US wanted feedback on whether the negotiations between the Micheletti and Zelaya teams is fruitful and whether there is a real chance for coming to a settlement. I imagine these “sectors” invited to this meeting are really one sector: the Honduran business community. For the US to get rid of its Zelaya problem and its Micheletti problem, it needs that “interim” president that Lanny Davis mentioned in his op-ed recently. If so, the US embassy invited the right people to chat about it, didn’t it?
Agustina Flores is a teacher and a reporter for Radio Liberada in Honduras, her mother and brother were persecuted during the dirty war in the 1980s, and today, her sister Berta Cáceres is director of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organization in Honduras.
She was arrested while reporting news from Brazil Embassy on September 22nd, a day after president Zelaya returned to country. She was in jail for 21 days and was released on bail of 100 thousand Lempiras (around $5 thousand dollars) payed by the Colegio de Profesores (Teachers) and with the help of the lawyers Kenia Oliva and Noelia Núñez.
There are six political prisoners still in jail in Honduras, their bail has being denied by the golpista government. Their cases are covered by the decree created by Micheletti which suspends constitutional rights such as public assembly and freedom of speech. Although it was announced the end of this decree, the decision haven’t being published on Honduras Official Journal by the government to become official, therefor the decree is still on.
On September 25th Dr. Juan Almendares, a Honduran medical doctor and award-winning human rights activist wrote a letter reporting about Agustina’s conditions after visiting her in prison. She was brutally beaten by the police at the moment of her arrest, below is video from Al Jazeera (English) about Agustina detation as well as others political prisioners arrested for demonstrate in favor of presidente Zelaya.
After being released Agustina Flores gave an interview by Mario Casasús for the newspaper Clarín from Chile. When asked about her 21 days in jail she respond:
It was difficult, but within it all it has being very nice to know that are so many people and organizations in solidarity with the Resistance, there was not a single day that I wouldn’t receive a visit from my compañeros/as, from the media and is thankful for this that I am out of there, because there were so many people demanding my freedom. At the time of my arrest I was beaten badly, I remembered what we had experienced in the 1980s, when my brother and my mom were persecuted constantly, they chased us as well, we had to move away from La Esperanza in 1978. Micheletti’s dictatorship made me remember the repression from the dirty war, I was afraid to become a missing prisoner. My crime was to fight for my rights, what I told the police: “No problem, tell me what crime I am accused and read me my rights” that bothered them a lot, right when I felt the first blow I told them I was going to denounce to all human rights organizations, including at international level and once they saw themselves threatened they retrain and I didn’t disappeared or was executed. They invented many things, I was on the demonstrations as it allows me the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras, I never denied it, my behavior has never been in a gang as they indicated in prison.
Freedom for all Political Prisoners in Honduras Now!
Contact Obama Administration and Congress to denounce the human rights violations in Honduras!
Bay Area Representatives Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, George Miller, Jackie Speier and Pete Stark have not signed on to H.Res. 630 condemning the coup; contact their foreign policy aides.
Like a bad penny, this bastard keeps popping up:
October 13, 2009
Ordinarily, if two major U.S. newspapers carried stories touting my prowess as a “lobbyist” manipulating the U.S. Congress into thwarting a wrong-headed foreign policy, I would simply post them to my firm’s Web site as testimonials and move on. However, the dual articles regarding Honduras in The New York Times (“Lobbying Effort on Honduras Getting Results”) and The Washington Post (“GOP Lawmakers Reach Out to Isolated Honduran Government”) are so misleading that setting the record straight serves a greater purpose.
The premise of these two articles is that right-wing Latin-Americanists have conspired with members of Congress to back the June 28 ouster of left-leaning Honduran President Manuel Zelaya–and that Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has been tricked into holding up administration nominations for two key regional posts, undermining President Obama’s ability to formulate policy.
Consider the following facts which I made known to The Washington Post reporter, none of which made it into its story because each would have undermined the premise thereof:
I support the nomination of Arturo Valenzuela to be assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs. On May 22, within days of his nomination, I wrote, “Arturo Valenzuela’s knowledge of the region and of the foreign policy bureaucracy is extraordinary. He will bring a cerebral, deliberative style to the process but also commands the respect of the career officers. …” I explained this position to a staff member of Sen. DeMint in a conversation that occurred after the senator had already declared his hold on the Valenzuela nomination.
The impression in the articles that lobbyists herded Republican lawmakers into a room to be programmed on Honduras also is untrue. Indeed, several senators and representatives organized their own meetings and reached out to invite members of a visiting delegation of Honduran citizens to make their case. That delegation, which received respectful hearings from dozens of members of Congress from both parties, wanted to explain the constitutional process that was carried out by the functioning civilian Congress and Supreme Court.
The members of Congress who are doing most of the work on this subject are trying to untangle the mess so that the U.S. will recognize the results of presidential elections in Honduras next month, so that we can restore our economic assistance to one of the region’s poorest nations and renew drug cooperation with a country that sits astride the transit zone for cocaine bound for the U.S.
While I did not grant an interview to The New York Times, I told the reporter that I was never hired to lobby for the new government and that the private sector group for which I was working indirectly was “trying to explain what transpired in their country under their constitution.” Nevertheless, the first two sentences of the Times‘ article state, “First, depose a president. Second, hire a lobbyist.” I have since pointed out to the reporter that the people who deposed Zelaya never hired a lobbyist, and the people who hired lobbyists did not depose Zelaya.
Earnest members of Congress (mostly Republicans) disagree with the administration’s policy of bullying Honduras into ignoring its own constitution to restore a dangerous autocrat to power. They don’t need lobbyists to tell them what to think or do on the matter, but I am proud of my efforts to explain the facts. President Obama’s nominees–two good men with whom I have worked–are being held accountable over substantive policy differences. At least one senator thinks the American people have a right to know about policies being carried out in their name.
Any of these facts would have made “right-wing” Republicans appear discerning, principled or forthright. It comes as no surprise, then, that these reporters would not let these particular facts get in the way of a good story.
Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, the ambassador from Venezuela, says that the political crisis in Honduras and the U.S. military presence in Colombia will be pivotal issues in U.S. relations in Latin America.
By Kevin Matthews
You cannot be talking about peace and at the same time increasing the presence of the military in Colombia.
Mixed signals from Washington have left Bernardo Álvarez Herrera, the ambassador from Venezuela, uncertain about where relations between Latin America and the United States are heading under the Obama administration.
But he thinks he’ll know how to tell. After a long period of paying little attention to Latin America, U.S. policymakers have turned to the region again because of a June military coup in Honduras and controversy over U.S. access to military bases in Colombia.
“The two issues of the Honduras crisis and the bases — military bases in Colombia — are going to be turning points in the relationship,” Álvarez Herrera told listeners in Bunche Hall on Thursday, Oct. 8. The lecture by the Venezuelan diplomat and political scientist was sponsored by the Latin American Institute and the International Institute.
On both issues, Álvarez Herrera said, some in the United States government are taking positions more in line with cold war strategy than with what he spoke of as the new reality in Latin America. The Obama administration pressed for the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya following the coup in Honduras, but Venezuelan and other allies of Zelaya in the region have been alarmed by equivocal messages from the State Department and by congressional lobbying on behalf of the de facto military government in Honduras.
“The first thing these people (the coup leaders) did in Honduras was to try to come to Washington and get the support of people in Washington,” said Álvarez Herrera. “That is an old tradition in Latin America.”
Regarding U.S. plans to use military bases in Colombia, the ambassador said that Venezuela and other South American nations were now demanding “formal guarantees” limiting the types of operations launched from them. Earlier in the week, a State Department official said that the accord will merely formalize U.S. access to the bases for the joint anti-narcotics mission. But Venezuela and other members of the Union of South American Nations, Colombia excepted, have expressed suspicions about the arrangement.
“You cannot be talking about peace and at the same time increasing the presence of the military in Colombia,” the ambassador said. Álvarez Herrera’s criticism of President Obama on Thursday preceded the announcement that he had become the third sitting U.S. president to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Álvarez Herrera, who was expelled from the United States in a diplomatic spat in the waning months of the Bush administration, also remarked that the election of President Obama offered hope for more dialogue and for a departure from the “classical imperial mentality” in which Latin America is the “backyard” of North America.
“At least we have a possibility. I think that possibility is very much linked to the personality of President Obama. He’s a person with credibility, respect, and he’s a new player.”
As the representative in Washington of President Hugo Chávez’s government, the ambassador is often advised to tread lightly and to try to create conditions for better bilateral relations over the long term.
“The thing is reality is moving, at least in our countries, at such a speed,” said Álvarez Herrera. “Latin America has already changed. We have also to change this idea that we will change once the U.S. has changed.”
In Venezuela, Álvarez Herrera credits Chávez with evading widespread civil unrest since 1999 by tackling poverty and social ills directly. In Latin America, said the ambassador, Chávez has been a unifying force who has offered a multilateral approach to diplomacy and real alternatives to the so-called “Washington consensus” of promoting neoliberal economic and trade policies.
One audience member asked Álvarez Herrera whether Chávez’s heated rhetoric made the diplomat’s job more difficult than it would otherwise be.
“Sometimes rhetoric is the only tool you have,” explained the ambassador. “If there were more dialogue, direct communication, it would be easier for us.”
Date Posted: 10/13/2009