The Honduran Accords

Qu?tate tu pa ponerme yo
– Song by Marc Anthony

Sufragio efectivo, no reelecci?n
– Francisco I Madero political slogan, Mexico, 1910

Remember the plotters who kidnaped and exiled President Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya and those who helped provide the facade of legitimacy for the June 28, 2009, military coup d’?tat? Almost two years later, this group of landed gentry, businessmen and military goons joined most of Latin America in welcoming Mel’s return to Honduras.

Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the media stenographers treated Mel’s 2011 homecoming as if he had coached a winning Honduran soccer team. For the few with memories, Mel in 2009 “threatened democracy” by asking the citizens to vote: for or against changing the Constitution. Washington now beams with satisfaction ? as if that former banana republic has returned to its proper servile place among “democratic” nations in the OAS.

In 2009, the now celebratory Hillary Clinton tried to legitimate the Honduran coup. The State Department had lined up with neocons, Chiquita Banana, Honduran business tycoons and military brass to condemn Zelaya for overstepping the sacred Constitution.

Hillary has forgotten her righteous condemnations and supports the agreement reached by her arch foe Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (socialist), and her ally Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos (conservative), and Washington’s recently acquired Honduran puppet president Porfirio Lobo (conservative) to laud progressive Zelaya’s return.

The coup makers did not foresee Latin American governments ? progressive or conservative ? collaborating, as Colombia and Venezuela did, outside OAS and U.S. domains. But they like the results. On the surface the accords showed Latin Americans had reached maturity, where right and left could unify (except for Ecuador) around the concept of law and as a region, by excluding the U.S. and Canada, solve their own problems. But behind this rosy face lurked the same old partnership of local oligarchy and the Monroe Doctrine.

How did this “miracle” occur?

On April 9, 2011, in Colombia, Presidents Santos and Ch?vez got Lobo and Zelaya to reach an agreement ? something neither the State department nor the OAS had achieved. (Ecuador refused to agree on lifting OAS restrictions on Honduras because the accords did not call for bringing to justice those who carried out the coup and assassinated and tortured hundreds in the aftermath.)

On May 22, Lobo and Zelaya, the kidnap victim, signed the Cartagena Accords. Santos and Chavez witnessed. The two Hondurans agreed to abide by the Constitution, guarantee Zelaya’s safe return to Honduras, with explicit recognition that he would participate fully in political life. Similarly, these conditions would apply to former Zelaya ministers now living in exile.

In 2009, Zelaya tried to eliminate some institutionalized anti-democratic features by offering voters a chance to decide, through a plebiscite, if they wanted to change parts of the Constitution ? like term limits (Article 234). Such an action, Washington and the Honduran oligarchy feared would allow Zelaya to use the support of the ALBA initiative (supported by Venezuelan President Chavez, ALBA aims to establish a Latin American alternative to “free” trade) to obtain capital resources, which he could then direct toward improving the lot of Honduras’ poor, a step toward his likely re-election. That formula had worked in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia. By ousting Zelaya and removing Honduras from ALBA, the Honduran oligarchy and Washington could keep Honduras in the hands of the old order.

In January 2011, however, the Zelaya-hating forces seemed to reverse themselves. With Washington’s support the legislature approved the legality of holding a plebiscite on ending term limits, the very reason they had kidnapped and exiled Zelaya. Plebiscites and referendums got the kosher stamp only months before the Cartagena deal emerged.

A curious media would ask: Why did the oligarchy, with Washington’s covert blessing that initially snatched and exiled Zelaya because he planned to hold a plebiscite to ascertain whether the Honduran people wanted to have a constitutional convention to re-write the constitution, now reverse itself and approve those once sinful notions?

Even the Supreme Court, which in 2009 had declared Zelaya’s intentions unconstitutional, in 2011, decided these changes had magically become legal and downright good for the “people’s aspirations.” U.S. backers will pour tens of millions into any oligarchy-selected candidate, but Zelaya, no longer head of state, is not eligible for ALBA funds. Zelaya, with his Liberal Party split, has less leverage. The grassroots leadership that fought for the Zelaya government and its leader in 2009 suffered the brunt of the repression and political killings. They want the guilty brought to justice. Their demands will work against “reconciliation.”

Under the Cartagena accords Honduras can return to the OAS. The “weighty” accusations against Zelaya and the legalistic blather used to justify the coup have disappeared. (Wikileaks revealed the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa in 2009 advised Washington the so-called legal arguments were bunk.) So Honduras suffered a brief interruption in the otherwise smooth development of Latin American “democracy”.

The coup delighted the Honduran oligarchy and its Washington backers, but the rest of the world disapproved. Foreign lending institutions, for example, withheld or delayed loans to Honduras. By late 2010, Lobo and company understood that investments would not pour in without formal and informal “recognition”.

In the past the Hondurans predictably played the musical chairs game; the oligarchs (economic power) shared via electoral rotation the political leadership as well. Behind the initial rejoicing over the Cartagena Accords then lurks a possibly bleak scenario. Hondurans might again face oligarchical rule, but now with the stamp of Latin American approval; unless, of course, those who resisted the coup can work with Zelaya and win an election with a real people’s alternative. Justice for the victims of the coup ? the dead and the tortured, however, will have to wait.

Saul Landau’s new film WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP is distributed by cinemalibrestudio.com. CounterPunch published his BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD

Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico

Limited Time Special Offer!
Get CounterPunch Print Edition By Email for Only $25 a Year!

December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek