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Pedro M. Burelli :On Honduras the US steps back
from the guy with the big hat: Insulza struggles for attention

Mr. Zelaya, the ousted President of Honduras, is in a big bind. He is unwelcome by a vast majority in his country; he remains a hostage of Mr. Chávez who is loath to lose his most unlikely ally; he has become an uncomfortable guest for Nicaragua that like Cuba believes that Zelaya is a coward and should pick up his camp, jump on a helicopter and parachute, or land, INSIDE Honduras "once and for all" and, as if that were not enough, his fate has become intertwined with the reelection daydreams of OAS Secretary General Insulza who stoked this whole crisis rather than help solve it. 

Today, the US - at the request of the US Senate - further clarified its stance on a matter that is probably boring the Obama administration to tears. Keep in mind that Honduras must have been priority #254 for the incoming team. The news, as reported below, is not good for Mr. Zelaya or Mr. Chávez. The US has decided to mark a distance with the man that has become "all hat and no country", and in no uncertain terms it is telling Latin meddler #1, Mr. Hugo Chávez (aka "Hugo, the Gunrunner") to butt off. 

Mr. Zelaya brought this new indignity upon himself. He is reported to be conversant - even coherent and friendly  -when he meets, or talks, with US Government officials, but turns into an morose and unreliable character in the presence of his handlers from Venezuela, or when egged on by his sidekick: the sinisterly incompetent "former" Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas. To add to the circus environment, Mr. Insulza has sought desperately to stop the intervention of former IDB President Enrique Iglesias in the delicate local negotiations that mediator Oscar Arias feels are needed to salvage the San Jose mediation process. Mr. Iglesias has the stature, disposition and independence to broker a deal. On the other hand, Mr. Insulza, has been sidelined with cause. He damaged his chances of playing any constructive role by a clumsy - actually foolish -  pre crisis intervention in Honduras and a preposterous trip after the ouster of pyjama clad Zelaya.  The Secretary General entered Tegucigalpa as an obese version of Darth Vader to the derision of all parties who are not at all happy to hear he has not got the message that his presence - and that of his organization's envoys - is NOT required. But the stubborn Chilean will hear only his inner voice which must be saying "If Iglesias comes in you are history...and also out of a job in the spring of 2010" we are in for another round of the OAS follies.

The US has done all that can be expected to try to restore a fool to a job he lost almost on purpose. Now it is time to get Zelaya, Insulza and Chávez to understand that their errors had, have and will continue to have consequences. PMB 

Reuters | U.S. appears to soften support for Honduras' Zelaya

Wed Aug 5, 2009 1:43pm EDT

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. policy on Honduras' political crisis is not aimed at supporting any particular individual, the State Department said in a new letter that implied softening support for ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

The letter to Republican Senator Richard Lugar contained criticism of Zelaya, saying the left-leaning former leader had taken "provocative" actions ahead of his removal by the Honduran military on June 28.

The State Department also indicated severe U.S. economic sanctions were not being considered against the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti, which took over in Honduras after Zelaya removed from office.

"Our policy and strategy for engagement is not based on supporting any particular politician or individual. Rather, it is based on finding a resolution that best serves the Honduran people and their democratic aspirations," Richard Verma, the assistant secretary for legislative affairs, said in the letter.

"We have rejected calls for crippling economic sanctions and made clear that all states should seek to facilitate a solution without calls for violence and with respect for the principle of nonintervention," he said. The letter was dated Tuesday and obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.

President Barack Obama has condemned Zelaya's ouster, refused to recognize Micheletti, cut $16.5 million in military aid to Honduras and thrown his support behind the mediation efforts of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, whose proposals include Zelaya's reinstatement.

Last week the U.S. government announced it was revoking diplomatic visas for several members of Micheletti's administration.


But the State Department letter, while "energetically" condemning Zelaya's ouster on June 28, noted that the coup had been preceded by a political conflict between Zelaya and other institutions inside Honduras.

"We also recognize that President Zelaya's insistence on undertaking provocative actions contributed to the polarization of Honduran society and led to a confrontation that unleashed the events that led to his removal," it said.

Zelaya was pushing for constitutional reforms that included changing term limits for presidents. His opponents accused him of trying to seek re-election, but he denies the allegation.

The Supreme Court ordered his arrest and the Honduran Congress later approved his ouster.

In the letter to Lugar, the State Department also indicated the Obama administration has still not made a definite decision as to whether Zelaya's ouster constituted a coup.

"We have suspended certain assistance as a policy matter pending an ongoing determination under U.S. law about the applicability of the provisions requiring termination of assistance in the event of a military coup."

Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had asked the government to explain its policy on the Honduran political crisis, warning that Senate confirmation may be delayed for a diplomatic nominee for Latin America without it.

The letter appeared to be a response to this request.

Because of U.S. support for Zelaya, conservative Republican Senator Jim DeMint has threatened to delay a Senate vote on the nomination of Arturo Valenzuela to be assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs.

DeMint welcomed the State Department letter but said the Obama administration had not gone far enough.

"I'm glad to see the State Department is finally beginning to walk back its support for Manuel Zelaya and admit that his 'provocative' actions were responsible for his removal," he said through a spokesman.

"These admissions are helpful, but what is necessary is for President Obama to end his support for Zelaya who broke the law and sought to become a Chavez-style dictator," DeMint said, referring to Venezuela's socialist president Hugo Chavez, an ally of Zelaya.

(Editing by Kieran Murray and Paul Simao)


Pedro M. Burelli is a financial consultant, a former member of PDVSA board of director and ex head of JPMorgan Capital Corporation – Latin America. Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.

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