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U.S. (Belatedly) Changes Course on Zelaya, Chávez Stays Quiet

The U.S. drops its support for Honduran former president Manuel Zelaya. Hugo Chávez says nothing, a development in itself.

by
Dan Miller

Bio

November 10, 2009 - 12:43 am

Previously, the removal of Zelaya had been characterized early and often as an unlawful coup and therefore bad. The change in position almost certainly occurred before the final accord was signed. Since the drafting of the accord was at the behest of the United States and was supervised by U.S. envoy Thomas Shannon, its meaning must have been clear to the U.S. In a press conference on November 3, Shannon seemed to know what the accord said and meant:

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said on the Senate floor that he’d spoken with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who told him that the administration would recognize the election Nov. 29 in Honduras “regardless of whether former President Manuel Zelaya is returned to office.”

“I am happy to report the Obama administration has finally reversed its misguided Honduran policy and will fully recognize the Nov. 29 elections,” DeMint said.

Senator DeMint accordingly removed the hold he had placed on two State Department nominees. Thus far, no explanation has been given by the U.S. regarding its change in position, nor even an acknowledgment that it has changed. Nevertheless, the change has clearly upset Zelaya and probably Chávez as well.

Chávez, who had been unhappy with both the efforts to secure an agreement in Costa Rica and apparently with the U.S. efforts in Honduras, said upon hearing that the accord had been signed: “We want to congratulate the people of Honduras for the battle they have won.” That was consistent with Zelaya’s premature statement that he would be restored to the presidency within a week. Chávez also offered a more tepid “wait and see” comment:

“It seems there is an open horizon.” His ambassador to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, said Venezuela was “not going to start dancing” until Zelaya is back in office.

More recently, on November 7, Ambassador Roy Chaderton condemned “delaying tactics” as an effort to cheat the international community and observed that:

[It is] absurd to push ahead an electoral process with candidates who took part and supported the military coup and a dictatorship as if it were a democratic government, and the OAS is pinning hope at the fantasy that one of them will take power and will solve the problem.

He seemed to be disappointed with the OAS, which until recently at least has been in Chávez’s pocket. Three days earlier, on November 4:

Delegates from Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua [had] denounced coupist ploys to break the October 30 agreements about the president’s restitution, in OAS Permanent Council meeting.

Little if anything else has been heard from Chávez personally, however, since soon after the accord was signed on October 30.

It reminds me of the Sherlock Holmes mystery involving the strange case of the dog in the night time. The dog had done nothing, not even bark, in circumstances which would normally have led it to do so. In more than a week since the signing of the accord, Chávez has barely uttered a restrained growl. It had been anticipated that:

Chavez will try to put his ally Zelaya back into office, even for a few weeks prior to the transfer of power, and preferably before the presidential election in November, so as to intimidate the opposition and claim a victory of sorts.

That may well happen, but thus far at least there has been no sign of it.

This article from el Universal presents an interview with Fernando Gerbasi, twice the ambassador to Colombia and also the chief of mission in Brasilia. Gerbasi feels many Latin American countries are becoming painfully aware of the domestic dangers posed by the Hugo Chávez/Venezuela model and are now putting distance between themselves and Chávez:

I would not say that … [Chávez] is completely out of the game [in Honduras], but on standby for the time being; at least for two years, in my opinion. Everything will depend on governance of the authorities to be elected on November 29th. Now, the role played by Brazil was not only in principle to replace (Honduras’ deposed President Manuel) Zelaya, but to prevent the advance of the Chávez project in Central America. And it does it in coordination with the United States.

This is an interesting take on Brazil’s position, and one which had not previously occurred to me. He may be correct about Brazil, although I had read statements coming from Brazil as being supportive of Zelaya.

Maybe President Obama will find time to read it. He and his diplomats should.

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