No sooner did the ink dry on the Oct. 29 agreement to resolve the four-month-old political crisis in Honduras when new doubts were raised this week about the implementation of the accord.
The agreement signed by acting President Roberto Michelleti and ousted President Manuel Zelaya, and still pending approval by Honduras’ Congress, would allow Zelaya to return to power before new presidential elections are held on Nov. 29. The accord would also put the Armed Forces under the control of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and create a Truth Commission to investigate the incidents leading up to and following Zelaya’s June 28 military ouster.
The accord also calls for creation of a government of reconciliation, scheduled to be formed Nov. 5, and a call to the international community to lift all sanctions against Honduras. It also calls on the international community to send electoral observers to monitor the Nov. 29 presidential elections.
In a nationally televised address Thursday evening, Michelleti said the “made-in-Honduras” solution to the crisis represents a “significant concession” by his government, which had previously insisted that the Supreme Court – not Congress – have the final word on whether Zelaya returns to power. Zelaya, who remains holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, argued that Congress should have the final say, even though his support among lawmakers – even those in his own party – remains dubious at best.
However, Micheletti said, “We understand that our people demand that we turn the page on these difficult moments in which we are living. For that reason, I have decided to support this new proposal to achieve a final accord.”
Yet new comments by Zelaya over the weekend raised doubts about the implementation of the accord. Zelaya said he would consider the accord broken if the Honduran Congress did not return him to the presidency by Nov. 5. That position was rejected by the Micheletti team, which said Zelaya has to respect the legislature’s decision regardless of whether he returns to power or not.
While the implementation of the accord was still uncertain at press time, the initial news of the agreement was met with cheers in the U.S. government, which sent a toplevel delegation to Tegucigalpa last week to urge an end to the crisis.
“I’m very pleased to announce that we’ve had a breakthrough in negotiations in Honduras,” said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a statement from Pakistan Oct. 30. “I want to congratulate the people of Honduras as well as President Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti for reaching an historic agreement.”
Clinton also extended congratulations to Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and the Organization of American States for the respective roles they played in facilitating Honduras’ move from crisis to agreement.
“I cannot think of another example of a country in Latin America that having suffered a rupture of its democratic and constitutional order overcame such a crisis through negotiation and dialogue,” Clinton said, adding that the U.S. government will be “looking forward” to the Nov. 29 elections.
With all eyes on Honduras to see if last week’s agreement holds, the next political battle will most likely be an international tussle over assigning blame and taking credit.
“If this agreement actually works – and in view of how unpredictable the Honduras crisis has been, one never knows – everyone will rush to claim some credit and spin it for their own advantage,” said Latin American analyst Michael Shifter, of the Washington, think tank The Inter-American Dialogue.
Shifter said he thinks the United States’ role, in the end, “Will have been decisive, though there will likely be lots of questions about why it took the administration of Barack Obama this long to get fully engaged and take a more proactive stance.”
Shifter said the leftist countries belonging to the Venezuelan-propped Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) will also likely take credit, “but it is hard to see that all the grandstanding and provocations were very constructive.”
If the agreement works, the analyst said, “Honduras will be the big winner.”
But, he added “The costs of the crisis, both economic and political, have been considerable and could have been avoided if the international community had responded more pragmatically and effectively from the outset.”