Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Halloween agreement in Honduras

The agreement signed in Honduras yesterday is conveniently close to Halloween, a weird omen about its effectiveness and who might win the battle in the end. It is not just a matter of disguise as a Venetian Carnival would have been. In Honduras the threat of further violence and terror exists behind the continuous masquerade where all know what is at stake but where few dare to say it aloud. Freddy would have a field day playing the different inner terror of these people.

We have several pieces that try to explain what the agreement is. The Wall Street Journal titles Honduras 1, Hillary 0. Besides the note that it givers us our third capital H for the day it would seem that the WSJ is betting on the Micheletti combo to carry the day. They do have a point: the Us indeed wants this masquerade out and is indirectly acknowledging that for 4 months the Micheletti administration has been paying the bills and pushing forward the election. The Zelaya camp besides its clownesque discredit has been sabotaging elections instead of trying to take an active role in them and building for the future, which must be reminded is less than 3-4 years from now, less than the duration of a presidential term.

I am not so sure. Zelaya, or Roldos, or another will have the financial backing of Chavez, the implicit support of Brazil if Lula manages to decide who succeeds him, the complacency of the US, the intrigues of Insulza, etc, etc.... In other words, Honduras is far from having escaped the Chavez communism curse (Chavez himself in a lapsus brutis used the term communism to qualify his pseudo socialism of the XXI century).

The Washington Post has a more complete article and a more skeptical one as to who is in the winning seat. It would be all fine if they had charged the beginning of the crisis at Zelaya's attempt at unconstitutionally changing the constitution rather than the fact of the military putting him in pajamas in an airplane. But certain patterns of guilt attribution seem hard to break no matter how much evidence is brought forth.

Curiously in its editorial the Washington Post is way more sanguine than its article. For them, it is OK to sub-title "How the Obama administration outmaneuvered Hugo Chavez". True, on paper Zelaya gets to return, maybe, to his old job but in a much weakened position, a true lame duck presidency while free and recognized elections can now be held. If the turnout is above 60% this would guarantee final proof that Honduras never supported Zelaya's plan to create his own version of presidency for life. The flaw here is that it all depends on how much the US is willing to bend its muscle to enforce the deal. We might expect in the US favor that Lula, having understood the image damage he did by accepting on his own Zelaya in Brazil's embassy, might consider now that supporting the US here and telling Chavez to back off would be in fact a nice touch for Lula to end his presidency with more of a statesman image. That would explain why Chavez is using his trade mark "por ahora" about Zelaya, understanding that for the time being he cannot do anything further in Honduras. "For the time being", it must be underlined.

The New York Times looks more at the strong arms tactics need by the US to reach an agreement. If the WSJ journal took this allegedly forceful attitude as a way out for the US, the Times is somewhat more positive. though there is a slight pro Zelaya aroma that comes out of the article. The NYT, it must be noted, did not worry as much about the hand of Chavez in the continuous whole story, almost contenting itself in making the Honduras crisis a classical banana republic tale. Today we must note this sentence "But hundreds of millions of dollars in American humanitarian assistance continued to flow" making one wonder whether the NYT journalists would have liked to see more misery in the streets of Honduras... Makes you wonder if they ever called Caracas correspondent Simon Romero to check about the bounties of XXI century socialo/communism...

I am not too sure what to think of this agreement. First, for the Micheletti side to sign, no matter how much pressure Hillary put on them, it must mean that they have a fair sense that they can prevail in the end. After all hurricane season is nearly over an Honduras was spared this year, giving less opportunity for chaos which would have favored the Zelaya side. Second, they got what they wanted, elections at the end of the month with Zelaya out long enough to cease being a major destructive influence on the democratic process. Third, having removed Zelaya for so long allowed the transition government to purge or neutralize the local administration of the worse pro Chavez agents: Zelaya will have a hard time putting them back in charge, in particular if the president elect gets a good share of the electorate and if the runner up recognizes the victory without ambiguity.

Indeed, Zelaya might be so weakened now, equally from the corset about to be set up on him as well as his ridiculous handling of the situation, that the Micheletti camp might feel it worth to take the risk of bringing him back in office, to politically finish him up once and for all. There is also the possibility that Zelaya knows his days are over and he will accept to play the game so as to bring back into Honduras people like Patricia Rodas and pass the baton to them. By coming back even as a figurehead, even for only three months, Zelaya ensure his presidential pension, his retirement on his Honduras land and maybe not a too awful position in Honduras history books.

But in such an aleatory situation one never knows what surprises are in store. So let's wait to see first whether the Honduras congress will vote the agreement, the first mine field to cross. It will take at least a week or two, but no more because they need international observers for the elections. That is the final goal after all for the Micheletti people: reach a recognized election result.

-The end-

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