The circus is coming to town!
Juan Barahona, sub-coordinator of the FNRP (Resistance movement), has announced that former president Manuel "Mel" Zelaya will return to Tegucigalpa, Honduras at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 28. Accompanying Mel will be Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Nicolás Maduro, Foreign Minister of Venezuela and Chávez' right-hand man. Both men are strong XXIst century socialists and strongly anti-US, a country which they refer to as the imperialists, blaming imperialism for all the woes of Latin America.
Also accompanying Mel will be one or more unnamed former Zelaya cabinet members — or "all of the exiles" according to Barahona [in Spanish]. Most, if not all, of the 'auto-exiles' have corruption and abuse of authority charges pending against them. But what is good for the goose, is good for the gander.... despite Honduran President Lobo's election day promise that "all corruptos will go to jail, en punto!", he seems willing to make any deal with anyone in the name of 'reconciliation'. I saw him on television tonight and I have to say that he looked more stressed than I have ever seen him.
My guess is that the distinguished foreign visitors will not only be around to up the ante for the 'Mel show' but will also be meeting with Pepe Lobo to enforce whatever agreements Lobo has made in secret with Zelaya and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. I'm pretty sure that we soon will be hearing an announcement of Honduras joining Chávez' Petrocaribe and perhaps even talk of Chávez' ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) not being such a bad thing after all. (More on Petrocaribe in my next article.)
The Resistance has promised a massive turnout of people to welcome back Mel and the show won't be complete without showing the world "repression by the golpista security forces". My guess is that there will be orchestrated lawlessness and violence to provoke action on the part of the police, complete with video cameras at the ready to capture only the second half of the action. Lobo has promised to provide protection for Zelaya.
Who is Juan Barahona?
Juan Barahona is a union leader, member of the former Honduran Communist Party and long time "revolutionary" who recently returned from a visit with Castro in Cuba. This interview, translated to English, tells how the four conditions (which were not mentioned by Lobo or Chávez or even Zelaya after the Lobo-Chávez meeting) came about.
Since any demands imposed by Chávez or the US would be looked upon with great suspicion both within and outside of Honduras, the proposal was softened by including neutral Colombian President Santos. (Where is Wikileaks when you need them?) Oddly, in a public comment after the original "mediation", Chávez said that he understood that the Resistance only included about 5% of the Honduras population and that a constituyente wasn't necessary anymore because the Honduran congress had passed an amendment to the plebiscite and referendum law, seemingly stabbing the FNRP in the back, at least publicly.
A week after the meeting in Colombia, Barahona, other FNRP leaders and several ex-Zelaya cabinet members met with Chávez and Zelaya in Venezuela specifically requesting the four points which Zelaya later announced as though they had been part of the original talks.
Juan Barahona, in the referenced article, boldly predicts that "on June 28 the auto-convocation of the National Constituent Assembly begins." He further states that they have fear that Lobo will sign an agreement but later not fulfill the terms after Honduras has been accepted back into the OAS so the FNRP has proposed a "Verification Commission" in which Presidents Santos and Chávez will guarantee the agreement is complied with. Colombian Foreign Minister María Holguín arrived unexpectedly this week to meet with President Lobo but the media was unable to find out what was agreed to or whether any documents were signed. Lobo is not talking.
Barahona also says that as a part of the human rights requirement, they have demanded punishment of all who took part in the June 28 "coup". Zelaya has often spoken of vengeance against the golpistas, despite the prior agreements to provide amnesty for all political crimes.
At least one FNRP faction, however, took objection to Zelaya and Barahona's dealings with Chávez, stating that the agreement blessed by Zelaya, Barahona, and other FNRP leaders has "been given very untransparent treatment by the leadership committee of the FNRP, which has manipulated information, kept secret the documents of the accord, and unreasonably refused to account for its actions before the full coordinating committee". Much of the same could be said about Pepe Lobo.
I don't believe that in a fair election a Constituyente would be approved because the vast majority of the population would vote against it, but, on the other hand, rumors abound that both Lobo and Juan Orlando Hernández, President of the Congress and strong potential 2013 presidential candidate, would both love to see reelection of presidents allowed. They have the means and ability to both manipulate public thinking and public spending (and thus public opinion).
Currently Lobo's popularity rating is in the dumpster, even lower than Zelaya's was at his worst, but enough handouts in the right places could turn that around, just as it did for Zelaya. Honduran blogger Ardegas wrote an excellent article [in English and in Español] analyzing Lobo's first year in office that I think represents the view of many Hondurans.
But the general unhappiness with Lobo's government from all sides of the political spectrum might result in many people deciding that anything would be better than the current corrupt system. Additionally, many people vote the party line regardless of what it might mean for the future of the country, so if Pepe says 'go', it's a go for them.
But Zelaya says...
In Nicaragua speaking the Foro de Sao Paulo, Zelaya himself interestingly says only that he "possibly" will return in the next days, "si Dios quiere" [article in Spanish]. El Heraldo quotes him as saying his lofty purpose is to "restore liberty and the political processes in Honduras".
In his discourse at the forum, Zelaya sang the praises of both "Comandante" Ortega and "Comandante" Chávez. Zelaya denounced capitalism as generating corruption and violence, pointing out that imperialism has been the cause of all 144 coups in Latin America and that, with every day that passes it is proven that the US, its government and the US Department of State were behind the coup that provoked his exit from power. He sarcastically exclaimed, "What a coincidence!" that four of the six coups in the 21st century were in ALBA countries, wildly stretching even the the most liberal definition of a coup. "Capitalism is the antonym of democracy and socialism is the synonym of democracy."
Mel Zelaya loves being in the limelight and loves playing the victim, as he often did while president (see this 2007 article, "Oh, boo hoo, everyone is against me"). In the past year and a half, he could barely even get coverage in Chávez' Telesur. Out of desperation for coverage, he recently spoke for more than 3 hours to a surprised Mexican reporter.
We should be in for some good shows in the coming weeks, but I don't think it will last much longer than that. One of Zelaya's flaws is that he gets carried away with himself when speaking. Another flaw is that he doesn't seem to remember what he said from one speech to the next — or possibly thinks that others don't remember. But most of all, I think that he is deluded about how much power and influence he really has in Honduras.
Zelaya is going to become just another ex-president and a clownish one at that. With Honduras in the OAS, they won't need him anymore. His specialty is dividing, not uniting the people and reconciliation is the last thing on his mind. I think that will become clear very soon. He doesn't really have any concrete ideology other than first looking out for numero uno.
He's been using the Resistance because it was all he had. If, for an extreme, non-probable example, he were to be named the head of the Liberal party (which he won't be!), he would drop the Resistance and its ideology like a hot potato. After all, he is one of the elite despite his (and others) attempts to jump on the Resistance bandwagon and pretend to be one of the common folk. As he begins to recognize his lack of influence, his speeches will become more extreme and radical until finally no one will want to listen to him.
Hopefully he will not encourage violence as a means of showing his perceived power.