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Once Again South America Comes to Washington's Rescue

Honduran Coup Over?

by GREG GRANDIN

Bloomberg is reporting that Honduran coup leader, Roberto Micheletti has accepted the Arias plan, which means — if true — that Manuel Zelaya will be, with conditions, as president. Though Micheletti is still begging for time, saying he needs Arias’s help in convincing his co-coup leaders to agree.

The terms are unclear about what is covered in the Arias’ amnesty, but it is doubtful there will be any investigation or prosecution of the human-rights violations that have taken place, including nine, perhaps ten murders, all against Zelaya supporters, over the last month.

The very fact that there are conditions on Zelaya’s return, and that there were negotiations, granted legitimacy to the coup leaders. But, and this is a big but, the very fact of Zelaya’s return is important for three reasons:

1. The momentum building in Honduras could continue, including an emerging alliance between the traditional, organized left (unions, peasant organizations, politicians), new social movements, real democrats, and the long-suppressed reformist wing of the liberal part (of course, it could fizzle out; if this new alliance put its energies into backing a presidential candidate in the coming elections, which are presumably advanced from November to take place in October, and that candidate lost, it could effectively end any energy (but right now, social movements are saying that no matter what the Arias accords say, they plan to still push the idea of a constitutional amendment). .

2. Potential coup plotters in neighboring Guatemala, and possibly El Salvador, must be discouraged. They were hoping Honduras might offer a model to follow, what with peasants on the march in Guatemala (protesting, among other things, transnational mining and biofuels) and a center-left president in office who refuses to repress them, and the FMLN in power in El Salvador. If Zelaya returns, this is a set back for them.

3. Perhaps most important on an international level, it delays the maturation of the budding alliance between neoliberals like Lanny Davis (who stands in for the broader Clinton camp) and neo-cons like Reich and Roger Noriega, who have developed close ties with Colombia, Venezuelan self-exiles, and displaced neoliberals from Bolivia. It also strengthens the relatively more sane tendency within the Obama foreign-policy coalition. One underreported aspect of the coup is that Nike, Adidas, Gap, and Knights Apparel lobbied Washington to restore Zelaya. They have maquilas in San Pedro Sula and were afraid of further labor unrest, which I guess is what passes these days for the modernizing bourgeoisie…

Also, the chronology of the diplomacy has been interesting:

1. coup

2. US responds tepidly, but when the rest of Latin America, the OAS, and the EU condemns the coup forcefully, Obama responds in kind.

3. South America, having solved without US help in a very impressive fashion two regional crises last year (Bolivia and Ecuador/Colombia) seems to let the US take the lead on this, since it is taking place in an area squarely in its sphere of influence; White House defers to State Department, which enlists Costa Rica and Oscar Arias to negotiate, despite the fact that OAS and most of South America opposed granting that degree of legitimacy to coup plotters

4. Coup government initially rejects Arias plan, indicating that US can’t even curb this client state, the third poorest in the hemisphere

5. Zelaya threatens to return over land, prompting State Department – embarrassed by the breakdown of Costa Rican talks – to call Zelaya “reckless.” But Zelaya’s presence on Honduras’s southern border ramps up pressure on coup regime, which begins to accuse Zelayas’ supporters of receiving money from Colombia’s FARC (the FARC must be brimming with money, for left politicians from Honduras to Ecuador are accused of being on its payroll).

6. At the same time, South America, both individual countries like Brazil, Chile, and Venezuela and collectively through Mercosur (which met last week in Paraguay), return to putting pressure on Washington to put pressure on Honduras.

7.Washington revokes visas of coup plotters, perhaps signaling that the game is over.

8. Micheletti – just days after publishing an op-ed in the WSJ probably ghost written by Otto Reich or Lanny Davis– throws in towel, hopefully.

So once again, South America comes to Washington’s rescue…

GREG GRANDIN teaches Latin American history at NYU and is the author of the Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, The United States, and The Rise of the New Imperialism, from which this essay has been excerpted. He can be reached at: gjg4@nyu.edu