For Immediate Release: October 30, 2009
Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460
Washington, D.C. – News of a deal that would effectively end the coup d'etat in Honduras and restore democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya to office would be a "victory for democracy in the hemisphere" resulting from the continued resistance of the Honduran people and pressure from Latin American governments, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. The deal reportedly includes a plan for a "unity government," a "verification commission" to be made up of two respected international figures and two respected national figures to enforce the terms of the agreement, recognition of the planned November 29 elections, and a truth commission to investigate the coup d'etat and subsequent events. According to negotiations agreed by both sides, the Honduran congress must approve Zelaya's reinstatement.
The coup regime - and regime head Roberto Micheletti in particular - has been erratic and unpredictable in its approach to the negotiations, having edged close to an agreement before, only to reverse course at the last minute.
"If the coup government sticks to the agreement and Zelaya returns to office, then it will be a victory for democracy in the Western Hemisphere," Weisbrot said. "This shows that international pressure really matters. Despite the fact that the U.S. blocked stronger action by the Organization of American States, it ultimately had to go along with the rest of the hemisphere."
Last week, Marco Aurelio Garcia, the top foreign affairs advisor to Brazilian president Lula da Silva said, "I believe the United States could put more pressure on the putschists."
"This shows that Latin America is not going back to the days when U.S.-trained and funded military forces could overturn the will of the electorate," Weisbrot said.
Weisbrot also noted the importance of the Honduran resistance movement in achieving an apparent resolution to the crisis that favored democracy over dictatorship: "The Honduran people never gave up, defying repression every day to demonstrate in favor of democracy. The National Resistance Front was disciplined and organized." This also helped make it clear that any elections held under the dictatorship would never be seen as legitimate.
Weisbrot noted that there were important political divisions within the Honduran elite: "[Conservative, National Party candidate] Porfirio Lobo wants the elections to be considered legitimate, since he's projected to win."
The Obama administration did not initially condemn the coup, and in the nearly four months since the coup occurred never made a legal determination as to whether a military coup had actually transpired. Such a determination would require, under the U.S. Foreign Appropriations Act, a cut off of all forms of non-humanitarian aid.
The administration wavered back and forth in its support for Zelaya's return. While it did enact some pressure on the coup regime through the freezing of visas and limited cuts in aid; on September 28, the U.S. blocked the OAS from passing a resolution that would have committed the OAS member countries to not recognizing the November 29 elections without the prior restoration of Zelaya to office. U.S. State Department officials also condemned Zelaya's efforts to return to Honduras. When Zelaya first attempted to return in July, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented that his actions were "reckless". On August 4, the State Department sent a letter to Senator Richard Lugar that seemed to blame Zelaya for the coup. Just a few weeks ago, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Lewis W. Anselem said "The return of Zelaya absent an agreement is irresponsible and foolish."
But Zelaya's return to Honduras was clearly a catalyst to this negotiated settlement.