December 9, 2009

The tides have turned for Honduras

Hillary Clinton with Carmen Lomellin, 
new US Ambassador to the OAS

Note: I've been trying to get this article finished since I started it last Friday. It seems now that it should read that the tide turned until the latest tsunami hit. Sorry for the delay, but I thought that the statements from the US and Panamá would still be interesting to you.

Finally, after five long months and six days, the tides turned for Honduras. After the voice of the Honduran people was heard at the polls on November 29 and through their congressmen on December 2, it was no longer possible to ignore the majority of the Honduran people.

Friday afternoon several Facebook friends and I watched the live streaming video of the OAS special meeting to discuss the situation in Honduras. Though you wouldn't know it from reading Secretary General José Insulza's press release, there was strong dessension not only about the OAS's position on the elections but about the facts surrounding the Tegucigalpa Accord.

The meeting began with Insulza's highly biased and misleading report, including this logic: he refused to send OAS election observers therefore elections cannot be recognized because the OAS did not send election observers. He encouraged all countries to not recognize the election. He made it crystal clear that he, speaking for the OAS, never had any intention of respecting the Tegucigalpa Accord or a "Honduran solution to the Honduran problem."

In his press release, he states that president-elect Pepe Lobo should "break clearly and publicly from what happened in these months" which indicates divisiveness and a desire for revenge more than a move toward reconciliation of Hondurans. In effect, Insulza is recommending that Honduras' new president break from 80% of the population, the people who elected him.

Obviously the OAS cannot be trusted to keep their promise, a promise that Insulza and other OAS representatives personally made to Honduras as inducement to negociate, that a Honduran solution (the Accord) would be respected by the OAS. Insulza chose instead to grasp at Zelaya's own failure to comply with the agreement as a reason to further harm Honduras.

Most of the statements from the various country's ambassadors that followed were more of the usual: "We will not recognize the elections. We will not recognize the new president. We demand that the Brazilian Embassy be respected. We demand that Jose Manuel Zelaya be reinstated to office." Blah, blah, blah. It was looking glum, but not surprising to those of us watching.

Then, along came a white knight in the form of new US Ambassador to the OAS, Carmen Lomellin. In her first official statement on her very first day, Ambassador Lomellin began to read a statement in a shaky voice. The statement began by condemning not 'the coup' but "Zelaya's expulsion from Honduras .... not because he was removed but because of the way in which he was removed". Read that carefully. That is a huge change from previous US statements. "Every country has the right to remove an official who abuses authority or breaks the law."

Lomellin stressed that both sides agreed to the Tegucigalpa Accord, "I repeat: Both sides," and that it was Zelaya's idea to have the congress decide. "We note that President Zelaya renounced the Accord, made inaccurate statements about the electoral process and US policy, and called for a boycott of elections."

Ambassador Lomellin was highly complimentary about the elections, but noted that "the roughly one million voters in the US and elsewhere, unfortunately, found it difficult to vote because Honduran Consulates and Embassies loyal to President Zelaya discouraged them from doing so. .... Honduran voters indicated their wish to move forward .... and the OAS should help them to do so."

"President Zelaya committed himself to the Accord, to support the elections, and to accept the decision of congress concerning his return to office. He should honor those commitments. It is time to move on. That issue is over. We all need to recognize that." she said.

Then came another white knight in the form of the Panamanian Ambassador Guillermo Alberto Cochez. He started out by saying that some of the previous statements from his colleagues reminded him of a joke from his university days:

"What would be the reaction of a right winger, a christian democrat and a communist faced with the infidelity of their spouses? The right winger would beat her, the christian democrat would sit down with her and ask her not to do it again, and the communist would throw rocks at the nearest American embassy."

Heee-lar-i-ous! I couldn't believe my ears. Neither could the other people in the meeting who guffawed loudly. Cochez was flamboyent, waving his arms, and showing the others to be the hypocrites that they are. He blasted them for "seeing the speck in someone else's eye but ignoring the gigantic beam in their own eye" (a common Spanish saying from the bible meaning 'judge not, that ye be not judged').

He spoke of coups in other countries by name. "These are realities that no one can ignore."

It was really quite incredible the way he said all the things that have needed to be said in OAS meetings.

Ambassador Cochez said, "There are other political problems against democracy which need our attention as well. There are violations of human rights. There are other countries who don't want the OAS human rights commissions to visit." (Venezuela will not allow human rights groups to visit to investigate complaints.)

The following is translated and paraphrased from his speech:
There are manipulations and criticisms of elections in other countries [which had the blessing of the OAS] and we guard our silence. There are [countries where] separation of powers doesn't exist, two judges of the election tribunal are of the president's party, violating the total meaning of democracy that we are here to defend. There are countries who change court verdits, a supreme court who changes the constitution of its country, closure of media, persecution, institutional fomentation of violence.

There is talk of a media dictatorship, but is there any media dictator worse than someone who takes over the airwaves and subjects his people to 8-10-12-hour national broadcasts up to three times in the same day?! We talk of governments who act in a cunning manner, of false democrats. 'False democrats?', or better said, false socialists, the new rich, of giving campaign money to other countries in suitcases, which we saw on a video a few weeks ago.

Ambassador Cochez said that it is time to look forward. "Honduras has the right to decide its own destiny and no one can impose one."

Hooray for Panamá and hooray for their sensible new President Martinelli, who no doubt blessed this message.

The US State Department in its press releases is finally admitting some of Zelaya's actions and distortions of the truth − that I have been telling you about here for months − that the Accord in no way required congress to return Zelaya to office, that Zelaya knew that and it was "crystal clear". They also mentioned Zelaya's negative stance toward elections, in violation of the Accord, and his refusal to participate in the Unity Government, and that the elections were scheduled long before June 28, not in an attempt to "whitewash the coup".

Interestingly, a State Department official also mentions "this government of national unity is going to have to address also issues including amnesties and other things like that." Other things like that? Other things not in the Tegucigalpa Accord? The issue of amnesty was in the original Arias San José Accord but was not included in the Tegucigalpa Accord at Zelaya's request. So the US, in their infinite wisdom about what is good for Honduras, is requiring Honduras to submit to the Tegucigalpa Accord even though Zelaya has denounced it, and requiring them to submit to select clauses that they want included from the San José Accord!

I don't expect that many, or maybe any, countries will ever admit that they were taken in by the Chávez-funded disinformation campaign in the early days and weeks and admit that this was a sloppy constitutional succession not a coup d'etat, but I don't think that many countries will continue the ridiculous stand of not recognizing the Republic of Honduras or the democratically elected president Porfirior "Pepe" Lobo.

If you understand Spanish, you can watch the entire set of videos of the December 4th meeting at the OAS website. If you only want to see the US (in English) and Panamá (in Spanish) speeches, look for the video which begins with the US Ambassador.

Canadian readers might also want to listen to the audio only of Canada.
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