Monday, July 27, 2009

No Negotiation

Everyone hearing anything about the Costa Rican negotiations, whether it be Round One or the newly proposed Round Two, should know this:

There will be no negotiations. This is all just words — from Zelaya, Costa Rica, Honduras, the OAS and the U.S. Anything you hear in the press about the negotiations, whether it be that Honduras is interested, or the US calling for more talks, or the OAS saying that all parties must negotiate, or everyones praising the heroic efforts of Costan Rican president Arias to bring peace to the region, or Arias own words that he will go the extra mile to bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict and that all parties should return to the table — this is all just total worthless talk.

There will be no negotiations, and everyone knows it!

The reason is that Honduras has no intention of ever ever ever (did I say 'ever'?) allowing Zelaya to be reinstated as president of Honduras. Ever. And since this is Point One of the Seven-Point Plan (and the only desire of the international community), there is no hope that there will ever be a resolution.

There is no Seven-Point Plan — there is only a One-Point Plan, and both parties (Honduras and Zelaya) are on opposite sides of that point.

Zelaya knows that negotiation will not get him what he wants, because he knows that the Honduran government's position is firm and the people of Honduras are resolute in their desire for the country's constitution to remain intact. I think that the U.S. and everyone else knows this too. They played their high-pressure, high-rhetoric game and lost! Honduras stands firm.

Zelaya also knows this: Everyone is getting tired of him. Ever since his failed attempt to enter the country by plane on July 5th, Zelaya's value as the left-wing Cinderella hero of the International Community has been fading. Every day he spends bouncing around different countries like some kind of Central American Michael Jackson decreases his momentum and increasingly makes him a embarrassment to the very people that desired his success.

Hence, the ongoing drama that is currently unfolding on the Nicaraguan – Honduran border. In classic Zelaya style, he began to inform the world of his imminent return to Honduras by land. First, he was going to come last week. Then it was going to be last weekend. I'm on my way! Maybe. Then the calls to the labor unions and other pro-Zelaya groups to strike and otherwise disrupt the flow of goods and services that travel via the national highway system. Then on Thursday he was coming for sure. The call went out to the faithful to come and meet him at the border.

So once again, for a brief period of 48 hours, Zelaya obtained that which desires more than food: Cameras rolling and the international press surrounding him to faithfully chronicle his triumphant return to Honduran soil. What the press doesn't tell anyone is that although Zelaya did theoretically step foot into Honduras, the Honduran government had given orders to the military to pullback 25 meters and Zelaya was informed that if he advanced pass that point that he would be arrested with or without people around him.

At the end of the day, Zelaya got what he wanted, his 15 minutes of fame and Honduras got what it wanted: Zelaya's hasty retreat back into Nicaragua.

Is the situation tense? Yes. Those that live on the border where this circus is unfolding are under a strict 24-hour curfew and Zelaya has vowed to set up camp on the Nicaraguan side of the border and continue to call for insurrection. Also, there are groups of people who are attempting to go to the border and be with Zelaya and usher him into Honduras permanently. Also there are strikes and general disruptions throughout the country (especially in the capital Tegucigalpa) as pro-Zelaya groups cause trouble. But time is not on his side.

While all of this was unfolding that there were two marches — one in Tegucigalpa and one in San Pedro Sula — where hundreds of thousands (the largest Honduras has ever seen) of Hondurans demonstrated their support for the constitution, democracy, and peace. These two were the biggest, but there have been many other demonstrations over the last month as well. In contrast, the demonstrations for Zelaya can be counted in the hundreds and are more angry and violent. These are the pictures the press loves to take and try to make it look like all of Honduras is revolting and in favor of Zelaya's return while at the same time ignoring the hundreds of thousands marching against his reinstatement.

So where is this going? The cracks are already appearing in the dam. Zelaya made a mistake pushing this border crossing. He has now given the US some much desired wiggle room in what has become an increasingly uncomfortable, incorrect and unpopular position regarding Honduras. Clinton has said that the attempt to come across the border was imprudent and that Zelaya needed to give the negotiations a chance, but both Clinton and Zelaya know that that's just talk.

He was doomed if he didn't and doomed if he did so his view must have been; why not try.

So what's going to happen next? That's what everyone wants to know. Pull out the crystal ball!.

What I think is going to happen is that our Mr. Zelaya is going find himself distanced more from the U.S. government. Obama & Co. know that they are on the wrong side of this and, I think, are looking for a graceful, face-saving, way out.

It was reported that Zelaya was traveling to the US for a meeting with the State Department at the beginning of this week. If that meeting gets canceled or postponed (and the State Department is waffling), the handwriting is on the wall. You can expect the OAS to keep talking tough due to the heavy influence of the ALBA countries and for Arias to keep calling for negotiations. You can also expect Zelaya, if he stays true to form, to become increasingly strident in his call for help both from within Honduras and from the International Community. In fact, I think the only reason he has not tried to overtly force a violent confrontation is that he knows this would alienate him from the international community that has thus far supported him. But if he perceives that he is losing that support, he will feel that he has nothing to lose and could attempt something more radical. Who knows? The crystal ball only goes so far.