A few weeks prior to the October 10 World Cup qualifying match between Honduras and the United States, the appointed Costa Rican referee was replaced with a Panamanian one. The substitution of nationalities was explained in Saturday’s La Tribuna as being due to the fact that Panama was not also a World Cup contender; my newspaper vendor had a slightly different take on the situation, which was that Costa Rica intended to skew not only the internal politics of Honduras but also its athletic legacy in favor of the United States.
Regarding US manipulation of Latin American destinies, Honduran political analyst and former Congress member Matías Funes – speaking over coffee the other morning – noted inconsistencies in the evolution of the golpista position vis-à-vis the regional superpower, such as that coup government functionaries who had previously maintained a policy of obsequiousness had now discovered the principle of autodeterminación. According to Funes, the evolutionary trajectory was particularly visible in the career of golpista Foreign Minister Carlos López Contreras, who had been assigned the nickname “Carlos López Contras” in the 1980s despite his insistence that there were no armed Nicaraguan groups in Honduras.
The October 10 La Tribuna column “Desde Estados Unidos” by Jacobo Goldstein mentions López’ current efforts to convince Brazil of the illicit implications of sheltering legitimate Honduran President Mel Zelaya without defining his legal status. Why “legitimate Honduran President” is not sufficient status is not explained, nor is whether denials of armed Nicaraguans would not also have qualified as a failure to define status; Goldstein instead stresses that López’ Brazilian efforts have been respectful and advises Honduran soccer supporters not to make disrespectful noises during the US national anthem that evening.
Other characters standing to benefit from Goldstein’s missives on etiquette include coup president Roberto Micheletti, who recently yelled at the visiting delegation from the Organization of American States (OAS) for not understanding what was happening in Honduras. His interpretation of sportsmanlike conduct is additionally underscored in a Saturday La Tribuna article in which he declares that a 4-0 win over the US would be satisfactory revenge for “what they have done to us,” although he admits that a 1-0 win is probably the best Honduras can hope for.
The conviction that the US has done something to Honduras is part of the traditional golpista refusal to comprehend that US action in the post-coup period has largely been confined to inaction, and that several months of State Department hemming and hawing over whether military coups are military in nature has facilitated the golpista consolidation of power. Other misconceptions regarding foreign interference in Honduras appear in the same article as Micheletti’s soccer prediction, when the coup president rejects the suggestion by the United Nations that Colombian paramilitaries are being employed in the Honduran private security sector. As for suggestions not yet made, “López Contras” may have a rival in “Paramicheletti.”
In rebuttal of the UN claim, Micheletti falls back on his perennial argument that people who want to make accusations against Honduras should first come to the country to witness the reality. An invitation should thus apparently be extended to Rodolfo Zelaya, head of the Honduran Congressional Security Commission and protagonist of an article featured below the one on Micheletti entitled: “Yes, there are paramilitaries.”
Rodolfo Zelaya explains that the presence of mercenaries is the fault of South American leaders intent on destabilizing the country but does not mention Hugo Chávez by name, presumably to avoid having to answer the question of how Chávez allegedly manages to control Colombian guerrillas and Colombian paramilitaries. As for members of Chávez’ own nationality, a picture of a Honduran police “observation tower” in front of the Brazilian embassy appears to the side of the article, with the explanation that the platform is being used to monitor the movements of an “elite Venezuelan team” said to be providing security to the ousted Honduran president.
Less controversial South Americans appearing in Saturday’s La Tribuna include Colombian Reinaldo Rueda, coach of the Honduran national soccer team and believer in the positive impact of soccer on national unity – a belief echoed by midfielder Roger Espinoza in an October 4 New York Times article entitled “For 90 Minutes, a Break from a Political Crisis in Honduras” in which he announces that soccer victories bring joy to the entire country, “no matter what is going on with the president.” A possible explanation for the US failure to resolve the Honduran crisis by losing 0-4 is that Micheletti would presumably still complain about US interference; the New York Times headline meanwhile becomes less convincing when coup presidents convert soccer fields into forums for political revenge.
As for Espinoza’s claim that “soccer is life” in Honduras, Henry Alegría – son of Honduran resistance coordinator Rafael Alegría – commented at a resistance gathering in front of the Universidad Pedagógica in Tegucigalpa the day before the game that he had formerly endorsed such assessments but had realized that more critical competitions were taking place in Honduran territory as of late. A companion jokingly referred to the presence in the vicinity of the “blue soccer team” and the “green soccer team,” meaning the Honduran police and army contingents, respectively, lined up across from the university; the lack of competition between the two was however suggested when both teams began trotting off in the direction of the Clarion Hotel – recent host of the OAS delegation – once they realized that the resistance was slowly adjusting its coordinates.
Further evidence of inter-squad cooperation surfaced in front of the hotel, where a Honduran woman in her seventies or eighties accused army representatives of not being Honduran and was then sprayed by a police tank with an irritating liquid termed “agua picante” by La Tribuna. The significance of Honduran nationality in the first place was called into question in the Clarion entryway, where a manager informed a small group of fleeing protesters that their flight would not involve said entryway based on the fact that “there are foreign people staying in this hotel.” When his loyalties were politely probed by a middle-aged woman with agua picante-induced welts on her neck, the manager protested that even Honduran Garifunas and inhabitants of the jungle region of La Mosquitia had at times stayed at the Clarion.
The lower rungs of Honduran identity were used as justification in a different context last week at a gas station, when a teenage girl in an SUV explained to me that Mel Zelaya’s popularity was merely a result of the fact that 80 percent of the population was poor. Her calculation did not, however, alter her conviction that “we Hondurans” were greatly disillusioned with the sudden leftist orientation of institutions like CNN and US Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens, who were intentionally tarnishing the image of Honduras despite the fact that the former preferred to describe the military coup as a “military-led coup” and the latter as a “whatever you call it.” The teenager meanwhile demonstrated no concern for other forms of national image-tarnishing, such as her proclamation that 80 percent of Hondurans were also thugs.
Florida congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen had also appeared confident in her ability to detect true Hondurans, and announced via Twitter during her visit to Tegucigalpa last week that the Honduran people did not want Zelaya back. There was presumably not sufficient space on Twitter to delve into the logistics of how she had assessed popular desires when her previous post had read: “Off to Honduras to meet w/Americans in Honduras as well Honduran officials so that upcoming elections are free, fair and transparent,” or to divulge whether one of the scheduled Americans was Mitch Cummins, owner of a computer store on Roatán Island, who boasted in a recent post in the Yahoo! Group Honduras Living that he has been “kind of the spokesman for the ex-pat community” based on the fact that he gave an interview to Greta van Susteren in September when a Fox News team arrived to Honduras to reveal Micheletti’s lack of English-language skills to the world.
As it turned out, Micheletti has at least had the prudence to be in command of the dialect of the land in which he resides, while Cummins reveals in his interview that he chose Roatán based on the ability to get by with English and the financial opportunities provided by the influx of tourists. Interruption of the influx due to US travel advisories is presumably what causes him to stress the island’s diving opportunities to Fox viewers and to categorize Barack Obama’s behavior as “very confusing to us Americans down here and… very confusing to Hondurans.”
Hondurans were apparently further confused when Mitch and his ex-pat companions showed up to the World Cup qualifier in San Pedro Sula in Honduran soccer garb, receiving them with “comments and odd looks,” according to Cummins’ post on Honduras Living. Suspicions eventually subsided, however, and “they accepted us as part of their group,” especially when one spectator recognized him as van Susteren’s interlocutor. Following the recognition, Cummins reportedly enjoyed free beer for the rest of the evening, undoubtedly leading to a more pleasant soccer stadium experience than had been enjoyed by Honduran anti-coup demonstrators recently held in such facilities.
As Cummins admits in his Honduras Living post that he is not even a fan of “futbol,” it appears that his World Cup support for what he terms in his van Susteren interview as “The Little Country that Could” – of which he is “prouder… at the moment than I am of the States” – is merely a matter of personal financial investment in Honduras. Other matters of personal finance include golpista ownership of the Honduran national soccer team; van Susteren meanwhile sums up the country’s standing in the global political arena with the claim that “Zelaya’s got all the countries. They’re all saying: ‘The Honduras, take this guy back’” – although most countries are probably leaving out the definite article before “Honduras.”
As for golpista insistence on a Honduran solution to the political crisis, former Congress member Matías Funes wondered the other day whether “Honduran solution” meant one drawn up by Hondurans or one that was inherently corrupt. Honduran soccer coach Reinaldo Rueda, on the other hand, reaffirmed his conviction in the possibility of justice in Honduras by appealing in the Saturday edition of La Tribuna to the Holy Spirit to illuminate the referees that night, with religious intercessions nonetheless culminating in a 3-2 win by the US.
Illumination proved to be a legitimate concern when the power went out in a number of establishments on Morazán Boulevard in Tegucigalpa at the start of the soccer game. The failure of the El Patio restaurant to produce a Honduran solution to the problem resulted in my viewing the game from the crowded entryway of Applebee’s, where the potential utility of international institutional creativity was revealed when the waiters fashioned tables out of highchairs and upside-down serving trays.