September 16, 2009

Guardia: Why did the San José Accord fail?

President Oscar Arias, Costa Rica

Translation of: Opinion section,, Costa Rica

En Guardia
Autor: Jorge Guardia
On Guard
Author: Jorge Guardia

Why did the Agreement of San Jose fail? What did President Arias do wrong so that his proposal merited the repudiation of President Micheletti, the complete Congress, the Supreme court, the Electoral Tribunal, the District Attorney’s office, and the majority of Honduran society?

The main error was to ignore that his role was as a negotiator, not as judge or arbitrating arbiter. He tried to impose a solution to the conflict – his truth, his version – without previously consulting nor having a dialogue with the parties. When Zelaya and Micheletti arrived at his residence for the first time, in the elegant Rohrmoser neighborhood, he received them with a prefabricated proposal and said to them: “take it or leave it”. And, of course, Micheletti did not accept the imposition.

The second error, connected to the former one, was to try to impose the OAS version, especially that of its General Secretary, José Miguel Insulza, for whom there was nothing to assess, analyze nor to negotiate, for all was very clear: it was a military coup, period. That was – and continues to be – his attitude, the same he adopted when visiting Honduras for the first time. He simply arrived to notify. He did not even want to meet with the supreme powers nor with the Electoral Tribunal.

The third error was not to analyze the legal situation about Zelaya’s removal and his substitution by the President of Congress. This procedure is provided in the Constitution. Even more, after analyzing the facts, the Supreme Court of Justice declared that there had not been a military coup (the military have not governed; they put themselves at the services of a civil power and accepted the San Jose Treaty), but instead a presidential succession in conformity with the Political Constitution. It says Zelaya flagrantly violated the Constitution by intending to reform it illegally, and that it itself provides that, by means of this action, popular representation is lost. It says there was plenary imposition of the presidential succession.

To ignore the opinion of the Supreme Court and to try to impose his criteria as an arbitral award, without valuing its legal thesis is crass. Even more crass is to force them to accept the Agreement (which has a lot of San Jose but not much agreement) by means of political, diplomatic (not so diplomatic) and in some cases commercial sanctions and announcing since now the non recognition of the next elections, in arbitrarily assuming, as of this moment, that they will be fraudulent. With that attitude, they will not persuade the Honduran people.

And that brings me to the fifth error: to ignore that people and the fear they have of ALBA’s dominance. The sixth, and maybe the most notorious, is that pride was in surplus and a little humility was missing. To revive the Treaty, Arias will have to radically change his attitude.


Many thanks to Alexandra D. for translating this article.
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