Agreement Reached in Honduras to Restore Status Quo Ante
The ongoing negotiations between Honduras’s coup leaders and president-in-exile Manuel Zelaya have borne fruit:
A lingering political crisis in Honduras seemed to be nearing an end on Friday after the de facto government agreed to a deal, pending legislative approval, that would allow Manuel Zelaya, the deposed president, to return to office.
The government of Roberto Micheletti, which had refused to let Mr. Zelaya return, signed an agreement with Mr. Zelaya’s negotiators late Thursday that would pave the way for the Honduran Congress to restore the ousted president and allow him to serve out the remaining three months of his term. If Congress agrees, control of the army would shift to the electoral court, and the presidential election set for Nov. 29 would be recognized by both sides. Neither Mr. Zelaya nor Mr. Micheletti will be candidates.
On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the deal “an historic agreement.”
“I cannot think of another example of a country in Latin America that, having suffered a rupture of its democratic and constitutional order, overcame such a crisis through negotiation and dialogue,” Mrs. Clinton said in Islamabad, where she has been meeting with Pakistani officials.
The accord came after a team of senior American diplomats flew to the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, from Washington on Wednesday to press for an agreement. On Thursday, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Thomas A. Shannon Jr., warned that time was running out for an agreement.
Mr. Micheletti’s government had argued that the Nov. 29 election would put an end to the crisis. But the United States, the Organization of American States and the United Nations suggested they would not recognize the results of the elections without a pre-existing agreement on Mr. Zelaya’s status.
“We were very clearly on the side of the restoration of the constitutional order, and that includes the elections,” Mrs. Clinton said in Islamabad.
According to Mr. Micheletti, the accord reached late Thursday would establish a unity government and a verification commission to ensure that its conditions are carried out. It would also create a truth commission to investigate the events of the past few months.
A testimonial to the Obama administration’s “incompetence,” as well as proof that “[t]his administration is on the wrong side of just about everything”? That depends. If you look yourself in the mirror every morning and snarl, “Go on. Just try it. Make my day,” then, yeah. If not, then you may be more likely to conclude, as Tim Fernholz does, that this is a first step toward a return to democracy for Honduras:
It’s a symbolic gesture, but it’s an important one. If the election in Honduras goes smoothly — doesn’t every foreign-policy article these days include the sentence, “If the election in ________ goes smoothly”? — then Honduras’ democratic system will have been reinforced without harsh sanctions, which would mainly affect the people of the state, or military conflict. Affirming democracy in Latin America is a positive step, especially coming from the United States, which does not have a particularly good history in that department. While the White House’s domestic opposition will no doubt call this deal a sham or attack the president for helping restore a controversial leader to power, this outcome will likely improve inter-American relations, and that is a win for a relatively green foreign-policy team.
Matthew Yglesias observes that, up until now, democracy had to come out of the barrel of a gun to be noticed:
The US has an unfortunate history of backing coups in Latin America and an unfortunate history of heavy-handed involvement in Latin American domestic politics, so threading the needle between heavy-handed involvement and coup-backing was difficult. But they got the job done, and as Tim Fernholz says the results are likely to be appreciated throughout the region.
For William Jacobson at the aptly named Legal Insurrection, overthrowing and exiling a democratically elected president is constitutional democracy, and restoring a democratically elected president to office, pending constitutionally mandated elections, is corrupt Chicago -style politics.
Kevin Drum dispenses his customary dose of mild-mannered common sense (and yes, that’s a compliment):
The truth is that I still don’t know all the ins and outs of what happened in Honduras and whose side I’m supposed to take. But what I do know is that conservatives came out of the chute almost instantly with demands that the Obama administration adopt the hardest line possible in favor of the coup leaders. This appeared to be for no special reason except that Zelaya was friendly with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, and to call this idiotic would be an insult to idiots everywhere. Tim is right: the Obama administration’s calmer approach was the right one, and messy or not, it helped get the job done in a region where the U.S. is not exactly known for subtlety and respect for local customs. Not bad.
Put another way, the Obama administration chose the traditionally conservative approach, and the so-called conservatives were the wild-eyed radicals.
Non-violent conflict resolution is bullying:
Yes, we have successfully bullied the Honduran government into returning to power, albeit temporarily, Hugo Chavez’s stooge Manuel Zelaya to the presidency. … The Obami are delighted with their handiwork.
Negotiations conducted by a regional consortium of nations which exists for precisely that purpose is a “stunt”:
It isn’t quite clear what this stunt was all about. Ingratiating ourselves with Chavez? Living down some American liberals’ guilt about past American policy in the region? Or maybe it was pure stubbornness, an unwillingness on the part of the Obama team to admit that it had staked its reputation on a crackpot.
It’s just so impossible to believe there’s a right-wing military dictatorship the U.S. would not want to support. Any explanation is more credible than that.