Understanding the Softening U.S. Stance

The softening of the US stance of "opposition" to the Honduran military coup, the Tegucigolpe, has been underway for some time. The State Department has inched slowly away from characterizing the coup as a coup, and it now has the status of an "event," in Washington statements.

The thrust of blame for the government crisis in Honduras is now pointed at President Zelaya, not the golpistas. Now, the issue is not Zelaya's "immediate and unconditional return" (OAS formal stance that the US voted for), but finding an acceptable compromise. Hints are made that perhaps even a modified coup government would be more suitable than a castrated Zelaya government.

The weight of evidence seems that the US is now on a course of trying to prolong the death agony of the coup regime, and use delay as a means to disorient and demoralize the mass movement.

From the point of view of the resistance, a key strategic consideration is to fight the coup in the streets with political demands, criticism, and ideas -- not to turn to violence and offer the armed forces excuses to escalate their already savage armed assaults on demonstrators and selected assassinations. Street actions and public protests within the country should be buttressed by similar solidarity actions abroad, especially in Canada and the United States where the main problem is centered.At this point, opting to catapult the country into civil war could bring about a disastrous setback to the country's poor and oppressed. Violence from the masses is always and always should be a last resort, waged in clear and justifiable self-defense.

The challenges before the Honduran and international resistance to the coup are highly and sharply political in nature, and require a sustained battle of ideas and mobilizations, strikes, sit-downs, and other actions that the resistance itself is the best situated to choose what is best. They have already proven the validity of this course despite the evident reality that they have yet to accumulate enough political strength to topple the regime.

Obama could end the regime, as Zelaya has said, in five minutes if he really wanted to. Dragging the crisis out appears to be the preferred option in Washington , and suits the Honduran generals and ruling families just fine.

Felipe Stuart C.
U.S. appears to soften support for Honduras' Zelaya
By Susan Cornwell
Wed Aug 5,

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. policy on Honduras' political crisis is not aimed at supporting any particular individual, the State Department said in a new letter that implied softening support for ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

The letter to Republican Senator Richard Lugar contained criticism of Zelaya, saying the left-leaning former leader had taken provocative actions before his removal by the army.

It also indicated severe U.S. economic sanctions were not being considered against the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti, installed after the June 28 military coup.

Zelaya's ouster has led foreign governments and multinational lenders to freeze some aid programs to the impoverished country and spurred protests at home. Demonstrations turned violent again on Wednesday.

"Our policy and strategy for engagement is not based on supporting any particular politician or individual. Rather, it is based on finding a resolution that best serves the Honduran people and their democratic aspirations," Richard Verma, assistant secretary for legislative affairs, said in the letter.

"We have rejected calls for crippling economic sanctions and made clear that all states should seek to facilitate a solution without calls for violence and with respect for the principle of nonintervention," he said. The letter was dated Tuesday and obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.

One of Zelaya's main backers in Latin America, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, also appeared to pull back from pushing for his ally's return to power."The most important thing for Zelaya, as he has told me himself, is not that he returns. The most important thing is that he stays on a path toward what the people want, which is political and social change in Honduras ," Chavez told reporters in Caracas .

President Barack Obama has condemned the coup, refused to recognize Micheletti, cut $16.5 million in military aid and thrown his support behind the mediation efforts of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, whose proposals include Zelaya's reinstatement. Washington is also revoking diplomatic visas for several members of Micheletti's administration.

Zelaya has been asking the United States -- Honduras ' No. 1 trading partner and longtime ally -- to ramp up pressure on the de facto government. "The United States is the one that really has the power to impose measures that go beyond diplomacy," Zelaya told Mexico 's Senate on Wednesday.

"I recognize the firmness of President Obama and Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton , but (the United States ) has acted lukewarmly," Zelaya said on an official visit to Mexico .

The Organization of American States, which suspended Tegucigalpa last month over the coup, said it would send a group of foreign ministers to Honduras in coming days to try to pressure Micheletti into accepting Arias' proposals.

VIiolence in Tegucigalpa

In the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, dozens of stone-throwing students supporting Zelaya clashed on Wednesday with police who shot teargas and water cannons to disperse them after they blocked roads around a university.

Police knocked down the university rector when she tried to calm the violence between the students and security forces.

The State Department letter condemned Zelaya's ouster but noted it was preceded by a political conflict between Zelaya and other Honduran institutions.

"We also recognize that President Zelaya's insistence on undertaking provocative actions contributed to the polarization of Honduran society and led to a confrontation that unleashed the events that led to his removal," it said.

Zelaya was pushing for constitutional reforms that included letting presidents seek re-election. His opponents accused him of trying to stay in power, but he denies the allegation. The Supreme Court ordered his arrest and the Honduran Congress later approved his ouster.

In the letter to Lugar, the State Department said Washington had still not made a decision as to whether Zelaya's ouster constituted a coup.

Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had asked the government to explain its policy on the Honduran crisis.

(Additional reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez and Mica Rosenberg in Mexico City, Fabian Cambero in Tegucigalpa and Ana Isabel Martinez in Caracas; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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