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OAS Efforts to Resolve Honduran Dispute Criticized

Castañeda and Gaviria Criticize OAS Secretary-General Insulza’s Efforts to Resolve Honduran Constitutional Dispute

by COHA Research Associate Elizabeth Benjamin

Honduran de facto President Roberto Micheletti apparently has succumbed to international pressure, spearheaded by the OAS and episodically echoed by U.S. diplomacy. Despite repeated remarks adamantly insisting that he would not sign any agreement with ousted President Manuel Zelaya until after the scheduled November 29th election, Micheletti agreed on October 29th to sign an accord that would open the door to Zelaya’s restitution. This reversal in Micheletti’s position is extremely important for the political future of the country, as almost all Latin American countries, the OAS, the EU, and the UN have announced that they would not recognize the results of this upcoming election as legitimate unless Zelaya first resumed his rightful presidential position.

For months Zelaya and his supporters had been calling for the direct intervention of the US. In order to finally settle the stalemate, on October 23rd, Secretary of State Clinton took the initiative to help solve the crisis, or at least facilitate the achievement of a consensus. Secretary Clinton dispatchied several top US officials to the country to meet with both sides. The US officials’ presence was considered a crucial element in the negotiations between Zelaya and Micheletti, which ultimately led to a resolution.

Recent remarks from former OAS Secretary General César Gaviria and former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda, delivered during a gathering in Sao Paolo, strongly criticized the current OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza’s efforts to uphold Zelaya’s constitutional position as a foundation to resolve the current crisis and to guarantee that no extra constitutional change would occur. Gaviria came forth with the entirely specious and mock political thesis that: “it is impossible to put Zelaya back in power since the Court, the Congress and the military are not with him.” Both Castañeda and Gaviria wrongly maintain that Brazil demonstrated a lack of commitment to an enlightened policy, when, in fact, President Lula’s administration clearly did the honorable thing by inviting Zelaya to take refuge in its embassy and to be a powerful factor in backing steps to resolve the Honduran dispute.

Almost to the point of vulgarity, both Gaviria and Castañeda have expressed the position that the Brazilian embassy has become a place of refuge for “subversive” activities, an outrageous claim. Moreover, Gaviria expressed his criticism against the OAS’s attitude toward Honduras prior to when the coup took place, arguing that the OAS should have criticized the “excesses committed by Zelaya” while he was president that caused discontent within the Supreme Court and the military. Gaviria also underscored that the OAS’s efforts to resolve the crisis should have been more balanced in order to accommodate Micheletti. Gaviria, who was always more effective as a promoter of an elegant lifestyle while living in Washington as the OAS Secretary General, than for democratic outcomes, seems to have overlooked that the ousting of Zelaya was utterly unconstitutional and a clear violation of the Inter-American Charter.

Given the illegitimacy of Micheletti’s takeover, Honduras has seen escalating incidents of human rights abuses in the country, especially targeted at Zelaya’s supporters rallying outside of the Brazilian embassy, where he has sought refuge. Gaviria and Castañeda’s remarks expressing their backing for Micheletti and a disapproval of Zelaya, are simply unforgivable and are more an example of their unremitting arrogance than constructive advice.

These comments are reminiscent of comparable statements issued by US Republican legislators, especially by four US Representatives who visited Honduras and met with Micheletti, but not Zelaya, earlier in the month. This undoubtedly was meant to interfere with and refute any likelihood that serious negotiations between both sides could be carried out at that time.

Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina adamantly had lobbied Congress to reverse the US State Department’s condemnation of the coup, while simultaneously blocking Obama’s appointments of Arturo Valenzuela and Thomas Shannon for the positions of Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. DeMint and his colleagues appear to believe that the coup was a necessary action taken because Zelaya had violated the constitution in an attempt to extend his presidential term. This was clearly a canard, since he was only asking that a consultative process take place with no legal standing, and which he most likely would have lost. If successful, he only would have the right to run for reelection in a contest where the odds of his winning would be grossly against him.


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