October 28, 2009

Hillary sends in the heavy artillery

Thomas Shannon, US State Department
Photo: La Prensa, Honduras

Today's La Prensa front page headline reads (translated) "Heavy artillery from the USA arrives today to pressure for an arrangement." The State Department heavy artillery is Thomas Shannon, Craig Kelly, and Dan Restrepo.

When asked in a press conference yesterday, the Constitutional President of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, revealed that he, as well as Zelaya, received a call from Hillary Clinton this weekend. He said they spoke for about 30 minutes. He made it clear to her that restoring Manuel Zelaya was not an option, and that Honduras is moving forward with the elections.

My source in Tegucigalpa tells me that Hillary's message to Micheletti was "Restore Zelaya or else!" Micheletti is nothing if not consistent. His response was "No".

Another bit of information that I got is that Harper's government in Canada, Martinelli in Panama, Uribe in Colombia, Arias in Costa Rica, and Insulza in the OAS are already working on a plan to observe and recognize elections no matter what, and they are annoyed with the latest USA government's actions.

Arias' change in attitude was attributed by the source to a phone call from Zelaya in which Zelaya insulted and screamed at Arias, as well as threatened him. Hah! I guess those Chávez tactics don't work as well for Zelaya.

In the press conference yesterday, President Micheletti said, "Now and going forward is the theme of elections. We are not going to arrange absolutely anything, not the dialogue, not anything if it is not subsequent to the elections. We are 33 days from elections and we cannot play with this theme."

Micheletti reiterated that "We are clear. There is no restitution (of Zelaya). We can talk about the theme of a third party (president), of a constitutional substitution, of the opening of all of the themes. They desisted with the matter of amnesty, that greatly pleased us."

Micheletti also confirmed that he asked Hillary Clinton for help to use the radar system (at Soto Cano joint US-Honduras air force base) to detect Venezuelan narco-planes in Honduran territory. He did not say what her response was. Many Hondurans fear that these abandoned planes may actually be bringing weapons for the Resistance.

As I previously reported, at least 16 Venezuelan registered planes have crashed or been abandoned in Honduras in the past weeks. Honduras has no idea how many may have successfully violated Honduran airspace by landing and taking off again because the US military forces in Honduras refuse share the radar information with Honduran anti-narcotics forces. Has that been reported in the US media?

Martha Lorena Alvarado, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, in another interview about the US visitors, sweetly said that she doesn't believe that the US will try to impose anything because the US is another country and this is a Honduran matter. She added that they may make suggestions, but not impose.

In yet another press conference, Vilma Morales, member of Micheletti's negotiation team, on the other hand, revealed that the Guaymuras Dialogue teams have been conversing by telephone this week. "We have to think with optimism that we will arrive at a happy conclusion this week."

John Biehl, OAS representative, echoed Morales in saying that an agreement is very close. He, however, has apparently been replaced with OAS representative Victor Rico, possibly because he apparently angered Zelaya by supporting the push for a third party presidential replacement. There are also rumors that Zelaya asked for a 'sweetening' of the deal.

While Resistance leader Juan Barahona and others continue to threaten sabotage and boycotting of the elections, the general attitude is that people are just tired of all this international intervention. They feel that Honduras has put forth an honest effort, it didn't work, so now they just want to move forward with elections, which they will, barring an invasion, regardless of what countries choose to recognize them or not.

Anti-USA government sentiment is growing, but thankfully, I don't believe that extends to US citizens, many of whom have shown great support for Honduras' struggle. While the US government continues to talk of "supporting the Honduran people", many believe the US is only trying to save face after making a bad decision, at the expense of the Honduran people.

Viva Honduras!
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