Smart Diplomacy: Killing Democratic Institutions

The latest US “smart” diplomacy celebrated in the press is in fact the cowardly abandonment of Honduran institutions to the tender mercies of her enemies. What would have been an electoral process to strengthen those institutions will now almost certainly weaken them. Consider,

In the absence of this deal, the local institutions were on track to execute a highly credible election, one in which Zelaya’s Liberal Party was heavily trailing the National Party yet was supportive of the process. Micheletti (a Liberal) had only ever stated that he is anxious to stand down as soon as possible, and Elvin Santos (the Liberal candidate) was also supportive of the election despite his weak polling. Power was already transferring to the TSE (electoral tribunal) from the executive, including with respect to the armed forces. These institutions had already stated unequivocally their rejection of Zelaya and his methods, as did popular polling by a large margin.

But with this deal, the US has exposed the individuals in the Congress and Supreme Court to the severest of carrots and sticks. There have been 3 questionable political murders and disappearences of Hondurans in the weeks prior to the deal. We can expect this fact to weigh heavily on the minds of the Honduran representatives. In addition, there have been reports of very large bribes (the major of Tegucigalpa says he has already been offered $15 million to support a “constituyente”) that one must presume come from Venezuelan drug and petro-dollars. By leaving the implication that the Hondurans should vote yes “or else”, the US is declaring open season. Venezuela may use all her carrots and sticks at will. On this playground the US does not have her little brother’s back.

So there are several ways this will go, all of which will weaken Honduran institutions. For starters, the deal is ambiguous in several respects. Without going into detail, it is enough to note that any practical result that is not clear cut will be bad for the credibility of the Honduran government and lead to more conflict, including more “need” for foreign intervention.

Second, a vote in favor of the deal will by necessity undermine the previous decision of the Supreme Court and torpedo the Constitution. It will eliminate the moral high ground enjoyed by Hondurans in defending their sovereignty, and demoralize the public. The assault on Honduran institutions will redouble, not end.

Third, a vote in favor of the deal will by necessity undermine the previous action by the Congress and open the institution and its individuals to prosecution. The truth commission, weighted towards leftists and internationalists, is already in place. Allowing this weighting was an error by Michelletti in an otherwise heroic effort.

Fourth, if Lobo allows his Nationalist delegates to vote for Zelaya’s reinstatement, he will lose a great deal of support. The election will already become a much closer call. If the election is close this will be a very dangerous moment. An unambigous result will open the door for allegations of fraud and in any case will confuse any message that the electorate is trying to send. Zelayista’s will be able to claim moral victory out of any mess.

Fifth, if the Supreme Court recommends No but the Congress votes Yes, both institutions are undermined. A constitutional convention will be called for.

Sixth, if both Supreme Court and Congress vote No, more unsolved murders will occur. The international community will withhold recognition. The US will look bad and presumably will follow through on whatever actions it used to scare the Michelletti team.

In a previous post, we said that the fix was in, and that we expected a deal to reinstate Zelaya with “limited” powers. This limitation would then be challenged continuously and Honduran institutions remain on trial until they were destroyed. No recent developments have changed this view.

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2 Responses

  1. Do you think Micheletti had any say in the makeup of the Verification Commission? I kind of doubt that.

    I think that the $15 million mentioned was referring to the $15 offered by Zelaya months ago for Alvarez’s support of the cuarta urna, not something recent but I could have missed that news. The mayor of La Ceiba also said that he was offered $8 by Zelaya for support of the cuarta urna but he refused because Zelaya would not tell him what he wanted to change in the constitution. That occurred sometime earlier in the year.

    Sadly, I agree completely with your analysis. I’m in despair for the future of Honduras and certainly for the future of democracy with all these new precedents set.

    Thank you for your wonderful blog. Your clear thinking is an inspiration!

  2. You are right that it is unclear what choices Micheletti had. One of the important questions of history will be what was said in that room by US officials. I do not think they will be judged as “smart diplomats” in six months, although most of the blame will be placed at the feet of the “incapable Hondurans” at that point.

    Please keep sending your reports from the front, Gringa!

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