Friday, August 14, 2009

Holding The Winning Hand

My last update left Manuel Zelaya camped out at the Honduran-Nicaraguan border in El Paraiso awaiting the tens of thousands of loyal Hondurans that would accompany him in his triumphant Messianic return to power. Come across the border alone he could not. He had to have a welcoming hoard that would offer him protection. Unfortunately for Zelaya the only hoard that showed up were the ever present journalists curious to see this side show and hoping for a confrontation. They would offer no protection, of that we can be sure. When it became apparent that the crowds expected were not going to make it to the border, and that sitting in a tent on Nicaraguan soil was making him look foolish, Zelaya decided it was time for a new play.

So last week Mel abandoned the tent strategy and jetted off to visit the only un-visited country left on the isthmus, and thus yet to grow weary of his presence: Mexico. There he received more red carpet treatment and grand assurances that he, Zelaya, is indeed the legitimate president of Honduras, while at the same time offering zero commitment to assisting him in his bid to regain the presidency. And why should they? The Mexicans could care less who is running Honduras and if their Big Brother to the north is beginning to pull back from this whole stinking affair then why should they stick their necks out for a guy who is fast becoming yesterdays news.

And the U.S. did exactly what I told you they were going to do in the last update: They began quietly changing tone and position concerning the country of Honduras. And that meeting the State Department was supposed to have with Zelaya last Tuesday? Never happened.

An OAS delegation is currently in Honduras and has been graciously received by the interim government. Initially Honduras was going to refuse the group because OAS General Secretary Jose Miguel Insulza was going to be a part of said delegation. Interim president Micheleti stated that if Insulza came then the whole thing was off. Insulza is nothing but a lap dog for the ALBA whose only simplistic one liner statement (repeated ad nauseam) concerning the not so simplistic developments in Honduras has been, "I don't think its written in the Honduran constitution that you take the president out of the country in his pajamas". Well now, isn’t that quick. What Mr. Insulza doesn't seem to understand is that countries should not be concerned about what IS NOT written in their constitutions but what but IS written. What is clearly and simply stated in the Honduras constitution is that the president cannot attempt to change the constitution in order to alter the term limits clause and the judicial branch ruled that Zelaya's proposed referendum was both illegally being carried out and was for that exact stated purpose. The constitution also states that if the executive branch attempts such a change that the president will be stripped of power and is no longer considered president. So I guess the guy that was taken from his home and unceremoniously dumped in Costa Rica was not the president after all: with, or without pajamas. Honduras will receive the OAS delegation and has even decided to allow Insulza to attend, albeit only as an observer.

This is all just show anyway. I've already said that there would be no meaningful negotiations and I stand by that. What’s happening here is a series of meetings where by Honduras and the OAS will quietly come to an agreement that will allow the OAS to come away from this whole affair without looking too weak. They were stood down by one small country that believed in freedom and were willing to stand up for their constitution. The OAS goal now is, like the US, to get themselves out of this mess while retaining some dignity. Make no mistake; Honduras is holding the winning hand. Honduras knows it, Obama and Hillary know it, and the OAS knows it.

The one real danger in this entire affair has, in my opinion been avoided. There was a point in this drama where some of us believed that pro Chavez forces, working with Nicaraguan operatives, would successfully fan the flames of Honduran unrest to the point where Venezuela could justify an invasion using Nicaragua as a launching pad. This was a real possibility and I believe that the prayers of thousands of people were instrumental in quelling this threat. The Nicaraguan people never had any desire to engage in violent activity against their Honduran brothers but the Machiavellian plans of Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega could not be discounted. The desire was there but Zelaya was never able to build up the head of steam necessary for them to take the risk. Now, especially with Columbia and Venezuela at each others throats concerning drugs, FARC and the leasing of Columbia military bases to the US, Chavez has his hands too full to attempt to come into Honduras and forcefully reinstate his guy Zelaya.

What this means is that, although Honduras continues to suffer unrest in multiple areas of the country, the struggle is decidedly internal.

Instability is still a daily reality for the major urban centers of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. Downtown's are routinely shut down by demonstrators on both sides of the conflict and the unions continue to strike, disrupting the flow of goods and services throughout the country. The teachers unions have been particularly disruptive, holding the education system hostage by refusing to teach classes and using the universities as meeting centers for planning leftist, pro-Zelaya demonstrations. The Marxists (dormant but not dead) viewed this constitutional crisis as an opportunity to rise to dominance and are reticent to allow the fervor and fire of their beloved revolution to be doused. So we have marches (not that big and not too violent) vandalism, a lot of graffiti (I should start importing spray paint), and down right thievery.

The Honduran government is currently in the uncomfortable position of having to show unreasonable restraint in the face of unreasonable and blatant civil disobedience. They have been hesitant to crack heads because they don't want give any more ammunition (no pun intended) to the international press that has thus far enjoyed painting the interim government as violent coup thugs that are ruling the country at the point of a gun. This depiction is not true, and believed less every day, but it still remains a point that must be taken into account by the Honduran government at this point in the game.

Hardened criminals, petty thieves, and gangs have been quick to seize on this interlude of reduced security enforcement to infiltrate crowds and introduce a decidedly violent element to the demonstrations. One of the more creative twists on this strategy has been to "demonstrate" in a mall where then they steal clothes from the stores. Its interesting how those demonstrations always wound up in United Color Of Benetton.

I figure that that government is going to give this whole charade another two to three weeks. Most of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula is anxiously awaiting for order to be restored. And where is Zelaya? No doubt looking for another country to visit.