Thursday, November 5, 2009

More Delays in Honduras

by Galen Cohee Baynes, Nicaragua International Team

The initial optimism inspired by last Friday’s announcement of an agreement signed between the Micheletti and Zelaya camps is starting to dwindle. It is becoming increasingly clear that Micheletti’s government - in a continuation of the foot-dragging tactics characteristic of this coup regime - plans to utilize loopholes in the agreement in order to delay Zelaya’s return to office. The Honduran Congress, which must make a final decision on whether to reinstate Zelaya, is currently in recess. As of yet no announcement has been made as to when Congress will convene to vote on Zelaya’s return. It appears that they will likely stall until the Supreme Court of Justice issues an opinion on the matter.

What does this all mean? Despite the fanfare and pretty words surrounding the signing of the agreement, constitutional order has net yet been restored in Honduras. The coup regime continues to buy time as the elections inch ever closer.

On Tuesday, Thomas Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, announced that the United States is ready to recognize the November 29 elections whether or not Manuel Zelaya is restored to the presidency beforehand. Though disheartening, this statement by Shannon is not surprising when the U.S. reaction to the coup d’etat over the last four months is considered. The U.S. approach has from the start been dangerously ambiguous. Rather than standing with the rest of the hemisphere in calling for the “immediate and unconditional return” of Honduras’ democratically elected president, Hillary Clinton and the State Department drew up plans for negotiations between Zelaya and the de facto regime. This provided a legitimate international forum for a coup government they claimed not to recognize or consider legitimate. This ambiguity has been a key factor in permitting the coup regime to maintain their violent grip on power. Shannon’s statement underscores a point that many Hondurans have known all along – the U.S. has been content to watch democracy be trampled in Honduras.

Whether or not the United States recognizes the upcoming elections, it is clear that many Hondurans courageously struggling for the restoration of constitutional order will not accept them so easily. Berta Oliva, director of the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained in Honduras (COFADEH), spoke of the possibility for fair and transparent elections on November 29 as a “sick joke.” Over the past four months freedoms of expression, assembly and the press have been consistently and brutally violated. Without the guarantee of these freedoms, Olivia notes it would be impossible for alternative candidates to hold an electoral campaign. She suggests pushing the elections back three months after Zelaya’s hopeful return to office.

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