After nearly three nomadic months of convening with leaders across the American continent, Honduran President Mel Zelaya reappeared in Honduras last week with the declared aim of engaging in dialogue with the coup government in order to resolve the national political crisis. Coup president Roberto Micheletti has demonstrated a lack of interest in any such conversation taking place outside a court of law but continues to lament what he observes to be an international refusal to listen to his side of the story; additional obstacles to dialogue were observed in the September 30 edition of the Channel 5 morning news program Frente a Frente – Face to Face – where the program’s title was called into question by the fact that auxiliary archbishop of Tegucigalpa Juan José Pineda was the only one talking.
Monseñor Pineda, current pioneer for dialogue in Honduras and maintainer of verbal relations with legitimate and illegitimate governments alike, expressed his satisfaction at the growing prospects for national conversation, which he explained via the imagery of concentric circles emanating from a pebble dropped in the water. According to Pineda, who later implied that he himself was the dropper of the pebble, the spreading of the concentric circles resulted in the opening of more and more doors to dialogue; evidence of the success of the Monseñor’s combined heap of metaphors was that he was now receiving text messages, emails, posted letters, and actual phone calls from Hondurans anxious to contribute their ideas to the dialogue process, which thus far appeared to center around Pineda’s communications with individual Hondurans.
A key prerequisite for the opening of doors, Pineda stressed, was the suspension of labels such as “golpista” – assigned to him by the coup resistance – and “malos hondureños,” assigned to members of the resistance by golpistas. Acknowledging that the recipients of the latter label could not be excluded from dialogue, the Monseñor offered the optimistic analysis that “we are all brothers” and “we have so much in common.” Frente a Frente host Renato Álvarez noted that Honduran coup general Romeo Vásquez Velásquez had also expressed optimism at the impending resolution of the political crisis, although Vásquez appeared to be less opposed to its exclusive nature.
The general’s enthusiasm had been conveyed in La Tribuna’s top headline of September 30, corresponding to an article on page 64 in which Vásquez decrees that Honduras currently requires certain “changes that will result in some people winning and others losing.” The militaristic winner-loser dichotomy is then further refined to consist of a winner, a loser, and a “neutral,” with the final post evidently occupied by the Honduran armed forces, who Vásquez swears have no enemies in Honduras. This claim is supported by an accompanying photograph of Honduran troops outside the Brazilian embassy, the caption of which consists of a claim by Vásquez that troop presence is based on the security needs of those inside the building.
Vásquez’ insistence on victory is challenged by the protagonist of an article on the following page of La Tribuna, US Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens, who announces that the San José Accord mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias will ensure that there are no Honduran losers. Proclaiming as a thing of the past the issue of the cuarta urna – the fourth ballot box that was potentially going to be installed at the November elections to register citizens’ desires for a National Constituent Assembly, talk of which is prohibited by the San José Accord – Llorens rejoices that it is now possible to resolve the Honduran problem once and for all, securing a brighter future for the population. The ambassador fails to explain how those sections of the population whose aspirations for the future happen to involve the cuarta urna are not losers, or how an accord that the US appointed the president of Costa Rica to write enables him to argue in favor of a Honduran solution to the Honduran problem.
Turning the page of La Tribuna, additional analysis by US functionaries is received from Phillip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, who announces that it is time for the de facto Honduran regime to talk to Zelaya. The article features a quote by Crowley categorizing as consistent with the US position the suggestion by interim US Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) Lewis Anselem that Zelaya’s return to Honduras was foolish and irresponsible. The quote on consistency is taken from Crowley’s September 29 press briefing in Washington and is seemingly inconsistent with Crowley’s press briefing of September 28, which includes the following exchange:
QUESTION: The U.S. representative to the OAS said earlier today that Zelaya’s going back to Honduras had been irresponsible. Can you elaborate on that?
MR. CROWLEY: I recall last week, President Arias saying, well, you know, he’s back. I mean – and that’s our position. He’s there.
As for people who were not there, such as the OAS delegation that was turned away at the airport in Tegucigalpa, Crowley opines that “it’s time for the de facto regime to put down the shovel. With every action, they keep on making the hole deeper.” Hugo Llorens’ perennial insistence on the clarity and immutability of the US position on Honduras is thus called into question when Crowley’s September 29 press briefing rolls around:
QUESTION: I would like to come back to the statement by your ambassador to OAS yesterday about Honduras. He said that Zelaya’s return to his country had been foolish and irresponsible. It seems that this statement has raised some questions, especially because Zelaya is still under siege in the embassy.
MR. CROWLEY: Who said that? I’m sorry.
MR. CROWLEY: Who made that statement yesterday?
QUESTION: Your – I mean the U.S. ambassador to the OAS.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure. Lew Amselem.
QUESTION: Lewis Amselem.
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And so is there any comment? Is there any change in the U.S. policy on this matter?
MR. CROWLEY: Not at all. Not at all. We have said throughout this process that all sides need to act constructively, avoid the kind of provocative statements or actions that would precipitate violence and inhibit the resolution of this situation. And I think our acting representative simply said with regard to statements that President Zelaya and his supporters have made that they need to act in a more constructive and positive manner.
Crowley goes on to reiterate US support for dialogue and his hope that the next OAS delegation will be able to enter Honduras, while his audience refrains from reminding him that Zelaya is not the one with the shovel and Monseñor Pineda fails to expand his list of interlocutors by encouraging the assistant secretary to engage in dialogue with himself. As for other topics covered in the day’s press briefing, Crowley posits in regard to Iran’s nuclear ambitions that “[i]f you have a peaceful program, there should be nothing to hide,” a slogan that might also apply to Micheletti’s policy of declaring pacific intentions but closing media outlets.
The recurring centrality of the OAS to Honduran dialogue was meanwhile confirmed at an August 15 meeting at the US embassy in Tegucigalpa between Ambassador Llorens and a human rights delegation from the US, when Llorens was heralding the arrival of a different OAS group to resolve the Honduran problem. A fleeting comment by Llorens, however, regarding the failure of the Honduran political class to rule satisfactorily and the awakening of a popular desire for social justice that had occurred as a result of the coup suggested that he was perhaps not as invested as he professed to be in the abilities of international institutions and accords to smooth over domestic conflict. Monseñor Pineda verified on the September 30 edition of Frente a Frente that the real problem in Honduras was “injusticia social” and pledged to continue publicizing this reality regardless of whether said publicizing was met with indignant calls for priests to go back to their sacristies where they belonged.
As it turned out, even social injustice was treatable via dialogue, and Pineda underscored time and again the importance of setting up mesas de diálogo throughout the country; as for the mesa already in existence in Costa Rica, he advocated injecting the San José Accord with a sense of forward momentum by updating its name to San José II. Frente a Frente host Renato Álvarez added Panama I as an option during one of the brief interludes in which Pineda was not listing all of the entities that Hondurans could engage in dialogue with, such as anti-coup teachers and God, and possibly cringed when Pineda suggested that he had enough material for more than one televised encounter.
A member of the resistance named Guillermo who arrived to Tegucigalpa from the state of Olancho last night expressed his appreciation for Pineda’s admission that resistance members also qualified as Hondurans but objected to his announcement that the Catholic Church was merely on the side of “Honduras” despite Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez’ professed identification with the coup. As for Pineda’s call for the nationwide proliferation of mesas de diálogo, Guillermo claimed to have experienced his own impromptu mesa at a roadblock entering the capital where a military soldier had requested a dialogue regarding his “No al golpe” bumper sticker. In the end the exchange had consisted of unilateral insistence that the coup was in fact a presidential succession, unilateral dialogue being one effect of suspensions of the right to freedom of expression.
First published in Narco News, 2 October 2009