Friday, September 25, 2009

Honduras: reality sinking in?

The vicious and hysterical response of Micheletti and his regime to Pres. Zelaya's return has, understandably, made a negotiated settlement even less appealing to people who have been actively resisting the coup for three months. But the talking has begun. Gen. Vasquez visited the Brazilian embassy on Wednesday night (purely routine! no meeting with Zelaya! Uh huh.). Yesterday the four coup-supporting candidates and the Auxiliary Bishop of Tegucigalpa openly visited with Zelaya. La Prensa's pictures of the hugs and handshakes have elicited resentful grumbling among the resistance, but also, I have to think, deepened cracks among the coup-makers.

The UN's action of withdrawing political and material/technical support for the elections has had a real effect (hence the candidates' meeting); it's a direct blow to the coup regime's strategy of pretending that the elections will be a "reset button" magically returning the country to democracy. Today the UN Security Council meets [Sp.] in a special session on Honduras (requested by Brazil on Tuesday).

Update 2: 4:00pm, 25 Sept - Yikes. On the very morning that the UN Security Council met and condemned the coup regime for harassing the embassy, the military and police launch tear gas and high-decibel sound attacks at it. First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya reports by phone that the gas is forcing those inside to wear cloths to cover their mouths and noses, that some are vomiting blood and bleeding from the nose, and that they have severely irritated throats. Medical personnel are being prevented from getting in, as are deliveries of supplies. This is via Radio Globo, and photos appear to confirm; I'm not sure what, if any, media correspondents are inside the embassy this morning.

A mission led by OAS chief Insulza will arrive today or tomorrow; it was planned for Tuesday but the coup regime prevented it with their lockdown of the country, which involved a 42-hour curfew, suspension of constitution, closure of all airports, and sealing of the borders.

Update 1: 3:00pm, 25 Sept - Nope. Micheletti still trying to run out the clock, per this AP report from two hours ago:

Honduras' coup-installed government plans to block the arrival of a commission of foreign ministers heading to the country this weekend to help resolve the country's political standoff, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said Friday [on the Costa Rican radio program Nuestra Voz].

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate who moderated previous talks between Honduras' opposing factions said the government of interim President Roberto Micheletti has told the Organization of American States not to send the ministers because they will not be allowed into the country.
His announcement signaled a setback just as the two sides appeared to be edging toward possibly restarting talks to end the turmoil sparked by the ousting of President Manuel Zelaya on June 28.

Micheletti's government spokesman Rene Zepeda said interim leaders want Arias to visit Honduras first so they can explain the situation to him, and that the ministers would be welcome next week.

Arias said he has no immediate plans to visit Honduras.

The curfew, illegally imposed to begin with, has been arbitrarily lifted and reimposed several times since, and is still in effect in five departments and the border areas with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. There are only 9000 troops in Honduras' military; as they and police from outlying areas have been deployed to the capital to put down demonstrations and any sign of resistance (which became explosive in the many poor neighborhoods after the regime's violent crackdown and extended curfew), they're leaving behind towns and villages without much of any presence by government forces. Oscar reports that local resistance organizations have announced that they will take control of their own areas and declare them liberated.

This isn't only about Zelaya, but about the way politics functions in Honduras. It's a long struggle to achieve genuine, participatory democracy. The organizing that's happened in response to the coup has changed the equation since the first weeks after June 28. Pres. Zelaya grasps, I hope, that the coup-makers are not the only ones with cards to play in the negotiations that have begun may lie ahead.

Update 3: 4:15pm, 25 Sept - Given the two depressing updates above, it's clear to me that the embassy visits and "dialogue" was all for show, to buy time and unearned benefit of the doubt, while the repression continues and increases. Just how much will the U.S. government tolerate? The current U.S. ambassador to the UN got where she is by being willing to look the other way while hundreds of thousands, ultimately millions, were slaughtered. We have to put the current atrocities in their faces, and in that of the public, to have the slightest hope that this administration will do enough and in time. There's a demo on Monday in DC; it's time to enlist the "respectables" to help bring more visibility to those speaking for the Hondurans under assault.

Update 4: 8:15pm, 25 Sept - Perhaps thanks to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' publicizing Xiomara Castro's reports, the coup regime went on the national broadcast system this afternoon to offer up lame, lying explanations for the symptoms of those suffering inside the embassy ("routine street cleaning, loud machinery"). Red Cross medical staff and Andres Pavon of the human rights organization CODEH were allowed inside; they were accompanied by UN investigators. See Al Giordano for more of the sickening story.

Maybe this will be the last straw for some who might be heard by our government. I don't fool myself that anyone in power cares about poor Hondurans tortured and stabbed to death, or a left-wing Congressman beaten by twelve policemen right in front of the legislature in broad daylight. But the protection of embassies -- unfettered communications, entry and exit, and immunity from police or military force -- is such a fundamental basis of international law and international relations that this dirty and spiteful assault might actually shock the conscience of some elites.

Update 5: 5:15pm, 26 Sept - It's hard to overpraise the work of The Real News' Jesse Freeston over the last three months. Someone who hasn't been following the situation could get up to speed just by watching the collection of his video reports on the Honduran coup, and even someone who's been paying close attention would be likely to learn things. He deserves an award. [As Charles notes in comments, in the meantime, you can express your appreciation with a contribution to The Real News Network.]
[Image: men and women among the nearly 200 taken prisoner when police violently cleared the street in front of the Brazilian embassy 22 September; photo by Paul Carbajal]

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At 7:09 PM, September 25, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great update, Nell!

--Charles of MercuryRising

At 11:12 AM, September 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that I probably didn't help things at Steven Taylor's blog. The report of the death of that child got to me.

Apparently a lot of people in Honduras similarly feel overwhelmed by the sheer evil of the gas attack. Listening to Radio Globo last night was a bit nightmarish as people poured out their hearts to Felix.

I know that we should feel sorry for those who are unable to grasp the deep wrongs they are countenancing. Some days, it's not easy.

At 12:15 PM, September 26, 2009, Blogger Nell said...

The 'dispassionate centrist' stance has never appealed to me, exactly because anger at injustice is a big part of what motivates my politics. For a lot of other people it's a game or a puzzle.

No regrets about being a feeling, compassionate human being; the emotions generated by this particular episode are hard to handle.

At 12:33 AM, September 28, 2009, Anonymous phoenixwoman said...

While it's true that it's hard to overpraise Freeston's work, one can make up for it with money. :-)


At 1:54 AM, September 28, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

To people who are fighting and getting killed, politics will always be distasteful. Zelaya could refuse to engage in politics, refuse to compromise, and stand firm in a policy of uncompromising defiance. But the likely outcome would be slaughter, and almost certainly most of those slaughtered would be the poor. So I don't judge Zelaya's actions harshly, presuming he is sincerely motivated by what is best for the people of Honduras. If he doesn't have their best interests at heart, I don't know what he's up to.

Passion is a good thing, as is anger at injustice. But the fact that a person thinks strategy is important doesn't mean he thinks everything is just a game or a puzzle that doesn't affect real people. The absence of strategy always results in failure, and the consequences of failure in situations like this are terrible.

I have no earthly idea whether Zelaya right now needs to stand firm to his position. I don't even know that his supporters will agree about that. I hope Zelaya doesn't have some agenda that would call his motives into question.

Nell, your blog is very informative and excellent. Thank you.


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