Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Coup in Honduras, five weeks later

Was it a coup on June 28? When the president appears in his pajamas, leaving town with a military escort on a Sunday morning, that's what it looks like. It has also been characterized as a justified legal government action against an out-of-control President - sort of Impeachment Light.

Guatemala shares a common border with Honduras, and we'll be heading that way at the end of the season, so we're paying attention.

"Mel" Zelaya wanted to extend his presidential term, as many other presidents do. Latin American presidents seems to be finding that four year term limits are, well, limiting, in both the good things they can do, and the bad. I believe even Newt Gingrich came to the same conclusion.

Zelaya's opponents were alarmed by efforts he made towards amending the constitution to remove term limits. A wealthy rancher, Zelaya was also thought to be veering towards the Chavez model of presidency.

Five weeks later, there are continuing negotiations with interim president Roberto Micheletti. Good thing Zelaya's official term of office expires in a couple months, with a new election scheduled for November 29. If everyone can keep trading accusations instead of bullets, all faces might be saved. Meantime, the US, and the EU have suspended much of their aid, to little effect.

The Supreme Court ruled (a constitutional referendum Zelaya had called for June 28) illegal; the Congress voted to sanction the president; the attorney general’s office began investigations into possible charges; both political parties—including the president’s own—condemned his actions; and church leaders like Evelio Reyes, pastor of one of the largest evangelical churches in Honduras, began holding high-profile prayer vigils each morning in front of government offices.
(said Christianity Today)

The larger discussion in Honduras, as in much of Central America, has to do with whether the status quo, ten percent rich/'advantaged' and ninety percent poor, shall remain. Will capitalism govern by proxy, or should an effort be made to directly accommodate every voice, including the uneducated, the impoverished and the oblivious, as certain definitions of 'democracy' might require. Despite his promises to all sides, Zelaya was apparently pretty inefficient in terms of actual governance, and no one liked the way he spent money that came his way.

The discussion rapidly gets heated. I won't get into it (let your opinion be no firmer than the facts upon which it is based), other than to say that there certainly is deep-seated social injustice throughout Central America.

Politically, several countries in the area, though not Costa Rica, are in a more or less parallel political situations: president with short term, president with opposition to his policies, some from the poor, and some from business which expects even better treatment. Will the oligarchs be supported as they have been for decades, nay, centuries, or will 'the people' get it together? The Davids have to face the Goliaths, and the results cannot be foreseen.

As a practical matter, the border between Honduras and Guatemala was closed for a few days early in July. People who were using the cheap Spirit Airlines tickets out of San Pedro Sula had to make other arrangements. With the situation unresolved and tenuous, the border could close again. But third hand reports from people in the hinterland say that if you weren't watching demonstrations in the capitol on TV you wouldn't have a clue anything was amiss. Anything could happen.

For anyone who wants to know more, here are a few links, several sent to me by a fellow boater who might have a horse in the race.

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