Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

Monday, November 16, 2009

US "Response" to Zelaya letter

An AFP report published in Paraguay earlier this afternoon headlined "US affirms that contact with Zelaya continues" quotes Ian Kelly of the US State Department claiming that the US position has not varied.

According to this report, questioned various times about why the US does not clarify explicitly its support for the immediate return to power of Zelaya, Ian Kelly-- wait for it-- "did not respond directly".

But he is quoted as saying (updated with transcript on Dept. of State Website quote):
I mean, we haven’t changed our policy. We have senior officials still involved in trying to get the two sides to – not to agree, but to implement something they’ve already agreed to, all right? I think we’re very – we remain very much involved in the process.
According to the report he added:
We can still do things.
Um... well, sure, you can do "things", but not what is really needed, super-statesman.

You can't turn back the clock so that the dissident parties in Honduras think the election coming in less than two weeks is legitimate. And the fact that the pact fell apart should be squarely attributed to the US State Department's premature statement that it would recognize the elections, come what may.

And you cannot go back in time and redo this whole botched crisis so as to gain positive regard in Latin American countries where what Zelaya said in his letter resonates: the rhetoric they heard from Obama in Trinidad and Tobago has yet to be matched to action. No one is under illusions that the US stepped aside to let Latin America settle this thing multilaterally. It has US fingerprints from start to sadly mangled finish.

The AFP report quotes a "US government source under anonymity" as saying Zelaya's letter will be responded to with a "missive" in return, in terms being worked out within the US State Department. Now, that will be the letter to see...


boz said...

No one is under illusions that the US stepped aside to let Latin America settle this thing multilaterally.

Sorry, I absolutely disagree with that statement. The Obama administration supported a multilateral solution from day 1 of the coup. They endorsed the OAS resolutions condemning the coup and calling for the return of democracy. Over the course of the past five months, they've spent more time and energy than nearly every other country in the hemisphere. They've also paid a political price at home that most governments have not (with possibly the exception of Brazil and Nicaragua). Too many countries in the hemisphere pulled their ambassadors, promised to not recognize the election and then spent months pointing fingers at the US to do more. And when the US finally did step in to encourage the two sides to talk, other countries criticized the US for not doing enough rather than helping the situation.

The main blame for everything that happened goes to Micheletti and the coup government. But second place for not having this situation resolved, far before the US, comes Zelaya. Honduras' president showed erratic behavior, poor decisions and eventually pinned himself down in the Brazil embassy without any strategy. For Zelaya to sit in that embassy and blame Obama rather than try to find a solution himself is a failure of leadership by the guy who everyone including the US still recognizes as the Honduran president.

If you can't tell, I'm annoyed with the post-hoc blaming of the US. It's mostly cheapshots that are weak analysis and don't help the situation. I think President Obama had it right when he said, "It is important to note the irony that the people that were complaining about the U.S. interfering in Latin America are now complaining that we are not interfering enough."

RAJ said...

I apologize for offending you. But I think it is disingenuous to ignore three things about the US role in response to the coup:

first, the Oscar Arias mediation was, or at the very least, is widely seen in Honduran and other Latin American circles, as US-inspired. And that mediation accepted the pretension of Roberto Micheletti as "interim" president (rather than de facto leader). Without the pressure to participate in the San Jose dialogue, President Zelaya would not have had to accept an equation with Micheletti.

second, it is not "ironic" that Latin Americans continue to ask that the US act; it is pragmatic. While Brazil in particular is a rising force in the region, the US maintains its position as unique power in the hemisphere: unique in the presence of its military throughout the region; unique in the level of economic aid it provides, certainly in Honduras. I have lost track of where he said it, but Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle noted in one of his editorials that the rest of Latin America didn't want the US simply to be passive; they want the US to consult, and when-- as in the case of the Honduran coup-- there is an overwhelming consensus, use that unique position.

third, and this is what I was responding to in this post, the US is directly responsible for the failure of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord because they prematurely announced that they would recognize elections, no matter what else happened. And it is not just a matter of Thomas Shannon apparently mis-stating the position. It is Lew Amselem's dismissive statements as well. The Honduran news media reports show clearly that every time a US government member veered from the stated US policy, the regime trumpeted that as recognition, acceptance, encouragement, and most recently, as Marta Lorena Alvarado noted, the only thing they cared about in the Tegucigalpa Accord.

So while I am sorry to have irritated you, I stand by this analysis-- weak as you may think it is. Too little pressure was applied, too late, throughout this crisis.

And the damage done is not just in Honduras, where in fact there is now at least a network of potentially effective political activists, and where at least the issue of constitutional reform is out on the open.

The damage done includes the perception by Latin Americans in many parts of the region that Obama's administration is not to be relied on. Whether this is understood, as it is by the more sophisticated, as due to a combination of holdover hawks in State and a lack of regard for the region as a potential source of problems in a time of absorption in other more urgent matters; or falls into the conspiratorial end of the spectrum that suggests Obama has a plan to establish (re-establish?) US hegemony, and Honduras was a rehearsal; these attitudes are a waste of potential good will.

I will address your critique of Zelaya, as I said I would. But I am reviewing the record in order to do that. Meanwhile, even though obviously we disagree on this point, again I appreciate your intervention and your own writing.

boz said...

So while I am sorry to have irritated you,

Sorry, I didn't mean for my comment about being "annoyed" to be addressed solely at you but at the broader community of those currently criticizing the US for not doing enough. I actually find your analysis to be among the better out there, which is why I'm commenting here and not at a number of other blogs on the subject.

I look forward to continuing to respectfully disagree with you on this. I think it's a good discussion to be had.

RAJ said...

Absolutely agreed. And I am trying to disentangle the question you posed about what President Zelaya could have done differently. But it keeps leading me to a conclusion that I find somewhat disheartening: which is that while I am committed in my own research to the insistence on localized and distributed agency, in some cases, actors really do not have much room to exercise any choice.