November 19, 2009

Craig Kelly speaks volumes to Honduras

Craig Kelly, center, with Roberto Micheletti
and Hugo Llorens (everyone is smiling)
Photos: La Tribuna, Honduras

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Craig Kelly gave a brief press conference in Honduras yesterday. Between birds squawking outside my window, the roosters crowing, and dogs barking, I did not hear everything at the beginning, but what I heard sounded good.

He covered three main points for "both parties":

1. Each side must follow the Accord point by point.

2. Elections must be respected − no one can take away the Honduran people's right to vote and elect their own leaders.

3. Stop the calls for violence − to this he added "from everyone".

He made special mention that he had noted great enthusiasm among Hondurans for voting. (!) He also asked everyone to respect human rights and confirmed that the Accord does not provide for any deadline for the Congressional vote on Zelaya's restitution. I hope that the the only brief mention of human rights signifies that the US is aware that most of the reports are greatly exaggerated or even invented.

With this, Kelly said, "Thank you," and walked away, taking no questions from reporters.

Here is my take on the above points:

1. Though there has been lots of bad press saying the opposite, the Micheletti government has been following the Accord "letter by letter, point by point", albeit by Honduran-slow-as-molasses-time. You won't find any New York minutes in Honduras, but I don't think that is much different from most of Latin America. We expatriates have a joke that if you think that mañana means tomorrow, you haven't been here very long.

I take this message from Kelly as directed at Zelaya who has been trying to renege on the Accord since the day after he signed it. Micheletti provided nominations for the Unity Government, after consulting with others; Zelaya did not. Zelaya has not shown even the tiniest speck of desire to work toward unity and reconciliation. His focus has been purely his own self interest, a point which has not been lost on the "international community" (IC), many of whom have been breaking ranks with the previous IC party line. While the ALBA countries and Chávez's other lapdogs, like Argentinan President Cristina Kirchner, have been yap-yap-yapping away, many other countries are taking a much more pragmatic approach.

2. Pffft! Since his very first speech, President Roberto Micheletti has promised that the election process and schedule will be carried out as original planned (last year!). One of his first acts was to provide the Election Tribunal (TSE) with operating funds that Zelaya had illegally withheld. Micheletti has reassured the population a thousand times that elections will be held, will be safe, and that he will turn over the reins on January 27, 2010, as required by the constitution (or sooner if need be). Since the presidential candidates trust him, why shouldn't we?

On the other hand, Zelaya....need I say more? He has done everything humanly possible to prevent or to sabotage elections. He has also made it clear that his work is not done yet. Today he issued a statement saying he will officially impugnará the elections. [google translation] (impugnará = contest, challenge, refute, disprove)

3. This one is a no-brainer, too. The only ones calling for violence are Zelaya and his followers. Just Sunday night, I heard with my own ears Zelaya say that "We must carry on to the ultimate consequences". Though Zelaya slyly worded this so that he can say that this means something else, I believe that the message to his followers was clear. Kelly's message is clearly to the zelayistas regarding the "bombs", the murders, the damage to electrical towers, and the threats which have increased in the past couple of weeks.

Though Craig Kelly was a little more clear than some of the US statements in the past, I still think that it dilutes the power of the message to always be referring to "both parties". As long as the message is directed to both sides, Zelaya and his followers will use it for propaganda against the current government.

Zelaya has been doing a lot of complaining since. In his letter, he had asked for a response from President Obama. Not only did he not get a response from Obama, or Secretary of State Clinton, or even Thomas Shannon, but instead he got a visit from a lower level State Department official. In the world of diplomacy, that speaks volumes.

Apparently, based on what Zelaya has said in various interviews, Kelly's original goal was to get both Micheletti and Zelaya to step aside in favor of a third party. In one interview, if I understood it correctly, a proposal was made that Zelaya himself would be appointed to the unity government as the Minister of Government and would serve as President when Micheletti resigned. That sounds convoluted, and not at all something provided for in the constitution or the Tegucigalpa Accord. Maybe I misunderstood, but it doesn't matter anyway as Zelaya declared that to be another trick or trap or fraud that he wasn't falling for. It was said that both Zelaya and Micheletti rejected the idea.

But overall, whether Kelly's statement a) is a change of the US position, b) they have come out of the closet with the "master plan" that so many expected, or c) the US has finally realized that they aren't going to beat down Honduras and are trying to make the best of it, I'm feeling much better about the US today.

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