The Honduran crisis may soon be over. Maybe. The leader of the coup government, Roberto Micheletti, agreed to a nine-point plan to end the country’s political impasse, brokered by Thomas Shannon, the former US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and Barack Obama’s yet-to-be-confirmed ambassador to Brazil. The deal would return Manuel Zelaya, the democratically elected president deposed in a military coup four months ago, to office; in exchange, the international community will end Honduras’s diplomatic isolation and recognize upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for November 29.
Hardliners in the coup government, however, see a loophole in the accords, which gives the Honduran National Congress the power to approve or reject Zelaya’s return. And no sooner was the ink dry on the accord than a top Micheletti adviser, Marcia Facusse de Villeda, told Bloomberg News that “Zelaya won’t be restored.” In a barefaced admission that the coup government was trying to buy time, Facusse said that “just by signing this agreement we already have the recognition of the international community for the elections.” Another Micheletti aide, Arturo Corrales, said that since the congress is not in session, no vote on the agreement could be scheduled until “after the elections.”
But such a calculated reading of the agreement will not play well with most countries, including the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the European Union, which have repeatedly called for restoration of Zelaya. Brazil–whose Tegucigalpa embassy has given Zelaya shelter since his dramatic surprise return to Honduras over a month ago–applauded Shannon’s deal, yet made it clear Zelaya had to be reinstated. And in Honduras, the National Party, whose candidate is expected to win next month’s vote, wants this crisis to be over. Its members in Congress may join with Liberal Party deputies loyal to Zelaya to approve the deal.
The accord leaves unresolved the issue of whether the widespread human rights violations that have taken place since the coup will be investigated and prosecuted, only vaguely rejecting an amnesty for “political crimes” and calling for the establishment of a truth commission. More than a dozen Zelaya supporters have been executed over the last four months. Security forces have illegally detained nearly 10,000 people; police and soldiers have beaten protesters and gang-raped women. And the very idea of a negotiated solution to the crisis grants legitimacy to those provoked it.
Still, if Zelaya were to be restored to the presidency, even just symbolically, to preside over the November elections and supervise a transfer of power to its winner, it would represent a significant victory for progressive forces in the hemisphere. Here’s why:
. The attempt by Micheletti and his backers–both in and out of Honduras–to justify the overthrow of Zelaya by claiming it was a constitutional transfer of power will have definitively failed. If this justification was allowed to go unchallenged, it would have set a dangerous precedent for the rest of Latin America.
. Efforts to rally support for the coup under the banner of anti-leftism, or anti-Chavismo–much the way anti-communism served to unite conservatives during the Cold War–will likewise have failed.