LAND: Paid Protesters
The title of our last post, The Rape of Honduras, was inappropriate when compared to the Rape of Nanking, or other mass atrocities. Nevertheless, even if it is not, as Whoopi might say, “rape rape”, it is a new kind of attack. It is succeeding, and events have crossed a threshold such that we can attempt to write the rest of the unfortunate script from here.
Chavez (if not necessarily Zelaya, who is still subject to sacrifice) is in a good position. He has been delayed 3 months, but he has accomplished several strategic goals. He has enhanced his international credentials, including strengthening his political petro-alignment with Brazil. He has covered his “Bolivarian Blowback” flank; the odds of reversals in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua have gone down because Honduras did not break away cleanly. In fact, the ground is being laid for an international force that would be able to intervene and stop anti-Chavez counter-revolutions. He has succeeded in weakening the US strong-point in Central America, opening the way for complete domination of El Salvador and Guatemala as well. Ultimately, the removal of Palmerola and trouble-free drug trans-shipment are within sight.
Tactically, by installing Zelaya in Brazil’s embassy Chavez has enjoyed a propaganda victory, has undermined the authority of the interim government, and has stopped Zelaya from being the laughing-stock he had otherwise become. Most importantly, he has re-created a beach-head “in” the country through which he can pour money and resources. The OEA delegation will be coordinating this dispersal. November elections have been declared “illegitimate” absent the imprimatur of Honduras’ enemies. The clock has been reset.
Now, what will happen is remarkably close to the original plan. Different sectors will be bought off, and (although this is not yet explicit) the Constitution will be re-written to allow a Bolivarian take-over. We can see the preparation occurring as Arias yesterday stated that the Honduran Constitution is the “worst in the world” and “everyone agrees” that it must be changed (this despite the fact that it has so far fought off Chavism more vigorously than any others). Expect the following:
1) A deal is agreed in the near-term with Zelaya enjoying reinstatement but very limited powers;
(If a deal is not agreed, Zelayista violence increases undermining November elections and forcing Michelletti into more “damned if you, damned if you don’t” choices. The local regime is further demonized and splits emerge. A weaker deal for locals follows);
2) Zelaya broadens his mandate to include the re-writing of the constitution. He rejects constraints placed on him by citing a higher law and the justice of a Bolivarian appeal to the people. Zelayista violence is applied as necessary;
3) The “cuarta urna” is explicitly negotiated into November elections. In this case whatever Constitutional process ensues is driven by the OEA (Chavez) which patronizingly helps Honduras to adopt a “better” Constitution (one which, by the way, had probably been written in June already);
4) If an agreement to include the “cuarta urna” is not agreed in pre-negotiated fashion, it is snuck in at the last minute, much as Zelaya attempted to do with the Saturday addition to the national Gaceta the weekend of his removal. In this case Zelaya again appeals to higher callings as a justification for abnegating the prior limited-power deal. It is not about him; it is about justice for the people. The existing institutions are constantly on trial from now on.
Duly elected Honduran officials understand that they cannot trust Zelaya, but they may still over-estimate their ability to control events against the influence of Chavezian oil money. As the OEA presence consolidates, that power is trending to zero. Certain individuals will do ok, but the institutions have a knife to their throat.
As predicted, Chavez is now pouring resources through his legal beach-head at Zelaya’s Brazilian Embassy. Apart from providing cash-for-protests, Zelayistas are working along several fronts to undermine the legitimacy of the interim regime and of November elections. They are creating a parallel government and are also forcing the existing government into cracking down. They know that crack-downs reduce the Michelletti regime’s ability to say it has law and the population on its side.
External forces are using Zelaya’s presence as cover to become more aggressive. IMF monies withheld from the interim government are already in process of being appropriated to the Zelaya “counter-coup”, and the United Nations is about to listen to Brazil up the ante in support. The stage is being set for an explicit intervention at the request of the same Zelaya government that foreign powers are artificially erecting. In this light it was the right move for Honduras to exclude the OEA delegation; the organization by its actions has already shown its agenda and having local agents on the ground will only cause further mischief.
The placement of Zelaya in the Brazilian Embassy was a brilliant move by Chavez as it increased the value of a chess piece that he had always been willing to sacrifice. If events spin out of control and Zelaya is somehow martyred, Venezuela will still have succeeded in undermining the legitimacy of the regime (and a parallel government will allow the process to survive if Zelaya does not). Meanwhile, the presence of the deposed President within Tegucigalpa (but not within national jurisdiction) provides just enough cover for the major players to push events in the direction they would like them to go. Hugo Llorens, US ambassador to Honduras and long-time friend of Zelaya, is rumored to be involved in the planning to create the parallel government.
A parallel government, however, means little without an armed force. The initial force is coming from the paid agitators and gangs who thrive on chaos. But the permanent force will come from abroad, and it will arrive through the US airbase at Palmerola. Foreign powers are almost at the stage where they will be able to justify this second force with or without Zelaya. An assault on the Brazilian embassy would be enough to push them over the line, despite the un-diplomatic calls for insurrection emanating from within.
The interim government may have no choice but to undertake such an assault. Those who criticize the suspension of rights announced today do not realize the extent of the intervention by foreign powers. There are no good faith actors driving the process at the UN or in the international press. Honduran sovereignty is under a new kind of slow-motion virtual assault. It is a rape that other small countries would do well to watch closely.