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.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


The chaos of information surrounding the trip Manuel Zelaya planned to take to Mexico has settled, and the story is now fairly clear. It is true that Mexico offered, and both Manuel Zelaya and the de facto government of Honduras initially accepted, that Zelaya would leave the Brazilian embassy with a safe conduct (solicited by Mexico, not Zelaya) and then reside in Mexico as an honored guest for some period of time.

Why it fell apart is instructive. It fell apart because Zelaya would not sign a declaration authored by the de facto government. Carlos Lopez Contreras, the de facto Foreign Minister, said
"There was an understanding that Zelaya would subscribe to a declaration...that he respected the Guaymuras pact, and respected in a like manner, the decision of the National Congress in the sense that it confirmed the end of his mandate."
They want Manuel Zelaya to recognize their authority and give up his claims to authority, to give them legitimacy. He shouldn't, and he won't. As he said last night,
"I could be here 10 years, I have my guitar."
Indeed, he played his guitar for those listening to Radio Globo last evening.

Why is this a roadblock? Porfirio Lobo was given homework by Oscar Arias and Ricardo Martinelli on Tuesday, which included getting Roberto Micheletti to step aside, since it will be fatal to Lobo's case for international recognition for Micheletti to be the one handing over power. Micheletti has more than once said he won't resign until and unless Zelaya also renounces as president. Stalemate.


phoenixwoman said...

RNS, do you get the sense that there is a deeply personal element to Micheletti's (I would say sociopathic) behavior? I have read that even before the coup, Zelaya derided Micheletti as "the bus driver" and said (perhaps because he helped Micheletti return after being on the wrong side of the 1963 coup) that Micheletti would never have amounted to anything without Zelaya's support.

One article from June suggested that Micheletti seemed to be best characterized by a "contained rage." That seems right to me. He is not content with having vanquished his opponent, he feels the compulsion to destroy him as well-- even if, in the process, he destroys himself and his own, em, victory.


rns said...

I'm very tempted to psychoanalyze Micheletti, but that would be counter to what RAJ and I are trying to accomplish with the blog. The State Department continues to act as if they're dealing with a rational man; I suggest they rethink that.

boz said...

The opinion of Amb Maisto when I saw him speak at a public event was that the coup and much of the fight after were an extension of an internal battle within the Liberal Party and personal animosities between Zelaya and Micheletti. He said Honduras has been dragged down and the world has been dragged into Honduras essentially over the squabbling of two old bitter men that turned ugly.

I don't know that I completely agree, but it does somewhat fit the psychological explanation that Micheletti won't give up and Zelaya won't give in. Even with all the bigger issues on the table, both want to win a personal feud they have with each other.

phoenixwoman said...

Boz, Zelaya has a little bit more to lose than Micheletti. He has been gambling with his own life for the lives of his family and of a lot of other people. If Zelaya had shown weakness, there would have been nothing to keep the dictatorship from holding Zelaya's family hostage, or quietly taking all of the opposition out back and shooting them. By raising a ruckus, Zelaya alerted reporters and human rights activists. He has endured hardship and focused on a goal for a long time. These are things that sociopaths are not very good at.

Micheletti, by contrast, got everything he could have wanted the moment that the State Department conceded that reinstatement of Zelaya was not a requirement. It was all a game to him.

So, I think there's a false equivalence in the way you pose the situation.
RNS, I appreciate that you don't want to get into psychoanalysis. People who have the qualifications generally won't do it without interviewing the person at length, and people who don't have the qualifications are usually wrong. But assessing whether there is a personal element to a conflict is not straying into psychology.


RAJ said...

I think RNS is reflecting my caution here; it is tempting to reduce this to personalities, and almost unavoidable to see Micheletti's intransigence now as completely personal.

Rodolfo Pastor has written of Micheletti's intransigence as due to his personality. I accept that as a starting point. Clearly, politics in Honduras is such a small scale thing that personal conflicts reverberate forever.

But "the squabbling of two bitter men"? That formulation ignores the real stakes here, and there were and are real stakes. Zelaya's policies had already changed the economic inequalities of the system. The political participation proposals were changing the long-established dominance by the two parties based on nothing more than party loyalties. Zelaya staked his political future on the populist movement. Micheletti worked to conserve the traditional power base and economic elite. Both men were extremely rational.

And I even think there is a rationality in Micheletti's current actions. As RNS points out in his post here, the crisis Micheletti is creating is Lobo's problem. Micheletti already got to be president-- and even has a stamp!

So, why is Micheletti perhaps not solicitous of Pepe Lobo's presidency? well, perhaps because Lobo is, after all, the leader of the Nationalist party, and Micheletti, of the dominant segment of the Liberal party. Lobo managed to work the politics of this so that the coup was blamed entirely on the Liberal party-- and regardless of the final vote count or differing views on participation, it is clear that the Liberal party suffered.

But Micheletti can make sure Lobo doesn't get an easy transition to legitimacy. And that benefits Micheletti's party. In other words, the coup was Micheletti's victory, and he won. The election was not his victory, and he has no investment in fixing its defects.

Zelaya and Micheletti may well not like each other personally-- they come from very different social positions. But they could never have ended up friendly, because they are rivals within the Liberal party.

boz said...

But "the squabbling of two bitter men"? That formulation ignores the real stakes here, and there were and are real stakes.

RAJ, I absolutely agree with that sentence and like your comment overall on the logical explanation for their actions. But some of their actions could also be explained by personal animosities.

Charles, to say that Zelaya has personal motivations is not to say he's a "sociopath." You have to be careful not to treat him as some sort of saint. He has many of the same motivations of power and influence as any other politician. He has failings. He sometimes makes bad decisions. He sometimes acts on his own personal motives that may include a dislike of Micheletti.

phoenixwoman said...

Boz, I certainly am aware of the political personality and all its failings. I would hardly characterize all politicians as sociopaths. Indeed, early on in the crisis I commented that many of the personalities in the crisis, including Zelaya, sounded like they had Jerusalem syndrome.

Zelaya's behavior has been under a microscope. Everything he has said or done that sounds the slightest bit unusual, no matter how far out of context, shows up in a Frances Robles column. But Micheletti's behavior, which has hardly been examined at all, is much, much more disturbing.

Take the most recent dust-up. From what we can tell, the Mexican government (presumably at Zelaya's request) approached Honduras and asked if they could transport President Zelaya to Mexico. We can see the letter online at Tiempo, presumably because the Mexicans are p--sed off, and sure enough, it says "President Zelaya" and makes no reference to him doing anything other than getting on a plane. Micheletti's spokespeople said, sure, no problem.

All of a sudden, many hours after the announcement that it was on, there's a demand that Zelaya renounce the presidency. This clearly came directly from Micheletti. It angered Mexico, embarrassed anyone who is supporting the dictatorship, and amounted to yet another renege on the obligations the coup has under Teguc-San Jose.

Tell me that isn't evidence of mental instability. And, no, not on Zelaya's part.


rns said...

Charles, let me suggest there's another interpretation of the set of events, one that doesn't involve inferences about Micheletti's mental state, and suggest we should end this thread here.

I'd like to propose the "incompetent underling" theory, that a decision was made by Carlos Lopez Contreras, or one of his underlings in the Foreign Ministry, to approve the safe conduct letter and get Zelaya out of the country, and it was only when Micheletti (or Pineda Ponce, or others in his cabinet) found out about it, that things changed. They did have a spokesperson come out and say the letter had been approved and given to the Mexican embassy that afternoon. After all, these guys have shown time and again that they can't actually govern effectively, that everything they do revolves around political patronage, because that's how Micheletti "administered" the Congress all these years.

Meno said...

Why end a very good thread? I realize that it goes off into territory that we may not be qualified to discuss, but that should never end a great start to a thread discussing either the psychology of the people involved, or the personalities of those involved.

As it is, many of the comments in other venues fail to realize that this is really about Latin America, and as such, allot of it is the macho mentality theory that guides many people in Central and South America.

It may have some psychology attached to it, but again, the personalities involved in Latin thinking are different than they are in the American mind.

What I am saying here is that this is a cultural issue when dealing with the people involved in the crisis. Often we fail to realize or talk about the cultural aspects to a country, and instead focus on why that country thinks or acts differently than those in another country, especially the USA, which plays policeman to the world.

The USA wants to imprint its morals and or stamp of identity on Honduras just because they believe it is morally right to do so. So we often see articles that are written that fail to understand the Latin way of thinking, which is completely different than the American way of thinking. I think when it boils down to it, the two parties in question are acting just like anyone else would act in a Latin culture. It is more Macho to play one up games and continue them, as opposed to sitting at a table and ironing out differences.

Sometimes a decision is made and the other party is killed to show who is stronger in any given argument. This is also considered a normal way of doing business in Central America.

In the case of the two parties now being discussed, I am sure if one or the other could just deal a death blow they would have already done so, but because Honduras is now on a world stage they cannot. So instead they take swipes at their underlings or against resistance members who support one over the other.

You can see it playing out that way now if you pay attention to it.

At any rate I do like the thread, so I wonder why it should be closed just as we are starting to discuss the deeper meanings we all wish to understand?


Caonabo said...

Interesting news from the Dominican Republic. DiarioLibre is reporting that on Sunday Dominican President Leonel Fernandez is meeting with Zelaya and then Monday with Lobo. After that he will meet with both together. A way out of this mess. We shall see.

rns said...

Caonabo, interesting if true. This is what was supposed to happen yesterday after Zelaya left Honduras for Mexico, he was to fly to the Dominican Republic to meet with Fernandez and Lobo, or so Porfirio Lobo told us yesterday.

EFE and other sources are confirming that both Zelaya and Lobo will meet Monday, assuming the de facto government lets Zelaya leave Honduras. That's a big if.