Tuesday, August 18, 2009

NY Times Honduras Editorial - So Many Myths

NY Times Editorial
Mr. Micheletti’s Dangerous Game, August 14, 2009

Honduras’s de facto government appears to be running out the clock. It seems to believe that it can slow-pedal negotiations to reinstate President Manuel Zelaya, who was summarily ousted by the armed forces in June, and hang tight until voters elect a new president in November.

So far so good. It has been about 52 days, with about 102 days left until the November election. This is the obvious product of "negotiations" with a criminal regime who has vowed not to budge an inch.
It must be disabused of this notion. Honduras has been deeply divided by the coup and passions could easily spin out of control. Even if the de facto government manages to pull off new elections, the results would be viewed as illegitimate by much of the Honduran population. That could mean years, not months, of crisis.

The Organization of American States, Washington and the Latin American governments that are trying to broker a solution must press this point with Roberto Micheletti, the de facto president, and his advisers.

Now might be the time to note that the South American countries (through a UNASUR declaration) have made this point clear by the best way possible. To say that they will not recognize ANY election held by the coup regime. The US has indicated it does not agree with this regional approach.

Mr. Zelaya, a self-styled populist and favorite of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, is no fan of the United States. But, as Mr. Obama rightly pointed out, Mr. Zelaya was democratically elected.

Self-styled populist eh? Anyone know what that is supposed to mean, except to say... (wait for it) a disciple of Hugo Chavez and anti-(north)American. Nevermind that Zelaya is a free-market liberal, a believer in CAFTA, a self-described "friend" of the US and supporter of Obama. His only criticisms of the US are on drug and immigration policy? Does anyone disagree?
Washington condemned the coup and suspended about $18 million in mostly military and development aid to the de facto government. But it carefully modulated its rhetoric to keep the focus where it belonged — on Mr. Micheletti and the illegal coup. And it held off on imposing more drastic penalties, like withdrawing Washington’s ambassador to Tegucigalpa or freezing the bank accounts of people associated with the coup, as some Democrats in Congress have urged.

The US "modulated" its rhetoric all right, to the point where it has still refused to officially call a coup a coup. It managed to piss off everyone in the region, who have demanded the US use some of its immense influence. The military and development aid, in fact, continues.
This has given the United States room to encourage negotiations led by President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The administration has rightly held to that course even after some Congressional Republicans — whose support for democracy is apparently selective — criticized this approach.

How exactly has doing little to nothing encouraged negotiations?? Even worse, the Obama Administration telegraphed - in a letter to Senator Lugar - that it is not considering ANY additional major sanctions. Negotiations 101 says you have to have a stick - or at least act like you have one. Many Republicans don't even believe a coup took place, of course they oppose any action.
The administration may not be able to hew to this fine line for much longer. Mr. Arias has proposed that President Zelaya be returned to office immediately and that Honduras move up its presidential elections by a month to October. Mr. Zelaya has also agreed not to try to change the constitution so he can run for re-election — the issue that prompted the coup. But Mr. Micheletti has dug in his heels, refusing to accept the deal
Still, 53 days in, we have the top news media in America repeating a couple golpista lies as if they were truth. Zelaya did not try to "change the Constitution so he could run for re-election." This idea is based on absolutely no facts and would have been a a complete impossibility (the elections were in November and the Constitution could never have been changed by then).
Foreign ministers from several Latin American countries plan to visit Honduras next week to press Mr. Micheletti and his backers to change their minds. The de facto government has already forced a postponement of the visit once. If it continues to reject the deal, the United States must be prepared to exert more pressure.

It would have been nice for the Times to say this 53 days ago. And not to continue to misrepresent the facts.

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Blogger marcmantasoot said...

Well-written, Matt. I hear your tone and style. I need to catch up with the story more before I comment on the content, but I do have a broader question. Where CAN we find credible sources of information these days? Both sides, left and right, criticize the media, TV and print, of bias and myopic reporting. Which sources do you trust? Your "Links" seem to the the left. [insert Beyonce song here]. Thanks for the post. I'll try to stay more informed.

11:46 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

Hey Marc, thanks for visiting. Your question is a very important one, but has no easy answer. Basically, I just devour as much news as possible from ALL sources to try to get at the truth (google news searches). I have to say though, that on Latin America, the media generally does a pretty bad job. Everything is framed in a sort of Cold War throwback (with Hugo Chavez the new USSR). Beyond that, I try to read certain outlets that I know to be somewhat trustworthy in each country (google translate). Plus blogs are getting better...

On Honduras, if you are really interested in getting to the bottom of things, the best place I've found is this blog set up by a Honduran-American lawyer. Though clearly anti-coup, I think after reading through the quite detailed postings, you will see why. Also, this blog is pretty straight down the middle on LatAm issues and has been covering the coup non-stop from the first day. Start from June 29th to get the full picture. Here is a pretty good resource guide as well from a centrist org.

If you think the role of media is being hotly debated here, in Latin America it is on fire. We have seen the private press in Honduras (owned by a couple of the richest families) take a total pro-coup point of view. We saw the same thing with the privately owned press in Venezuela in 2002. These are only the most egregious examples of what is unfortunately a very irresponsible private press in Latin America (openly hostile to any project of the left). I think it is legitimate to ask whether a press owned by the wealthiest interests in any country can be expected to deliver truthful, impartial information to its readers. The lefty sites I link to are useful for digging out nuggets of information that are too often left out, but you have to be careful there as well. I agree. Everything with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, the more I learn about the region and read the mainstream press accounts, the more cynical I get (as probably showed in this post).

4:30 PM  
Blogger marcmantasoot said...

Thanks for your reply. Makes sense that Latin American press would be even more hotly debated. Do you think it's unfair or just incomplete to see Latin America through a Cold War throwback lens? I mean their is alot of similar movements and conflicts, right? I want to put you on my blogroll. How should I characterize you? Is it fair to say, "my left-leaning friend's blog, 'A View to the South'?"

12:54 PM  
Blogger marcmantasoot said...

I meant "there" not "their."

12:56 PM  

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