Honduras Coup's Preconditions Leave Nothing to Negotiate

By Al Giordano

One of the moments of yesterday's unforgettable drama in Honduras that most sticks in my mind today was the press conference by illegitimate "president" Roberto Micheletti and three aides: the gorilla and his chimps.

After befuddling himself with his claims of a "psychological invasion" by Nicaragua, and with various rambling references by his senile wingmen to Luis XIV and events in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Micheletti and his Simian Council then called for "negotiation" with the Organization of American States (OAS), and today sends a delegation to Washington in pursuit of just that.

The problem is, that the precondition set by the coup government for said "negotiations" leaves nothing to negotiate. The coup's "foreign minister," Enrique Ortez. has repeated this mantra various times:

"There is only one thing that is not negotiable: the return of ex-president Zelaya."

Got it? Any thing on the table for said "negotiations" has as a precondition that an illegitimate military coup (with civilian window dressing), or its next generation of illegitimate designees, would have to be in charge. Thus the rug is pulled out, beforehand, on any of the other suggestions the coup rulers could make. Micheletti's offer of "early elections" is nonsense. Nobody can trust "elections" run by a clique that has already demonstrated its total contempt for, ahem, the results of elections. If they don't like the result, they'll just hold another coup. And that's probably a moot point anyway because no country can hold fair and free elections when it, at whim, suspends the most basic constitutional rights of freedom of assembly, association, transit, the press, due process and from unwarranted search and seizure in one's home.

This is the same "foreign minister," by the way, whose skills at diplomacy included this statement, last week, about US President Obama:

"The (US) president of the republic, with all due respect to the little black man ('negrito'), doesn’t know where Tegucigalpa is. We know where Washington is and we’re are obligated, as a small country, a democratic pygmy, to clarify the concepts for him and read to him, maybe in his language, what’s going on."

And as comical punctuation to his defense of his small country in the context of a larger one, Ortez, speaking last week about neighboring El Salvador, said:

"It's not worth talking about a country so tiny that you can't play football in it because the ball lands in another country."

This isn't a government. It's a clown show... a macabre one, in which the clowns are armed with machine guns and, like Batman's super-villains, are shooting them at the audience.

One of the coup's top military officials, Colonel Herberth Bayardo Inestroza, brazenly admitted to the Miami Herald last week that "we broke the law," in carrying out the coup, followed by a shoulder shrugand so what? But among his most chilling statements - including an advance justification for political assassination by military snipers - was this gem:

"It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That's impossible."

In other words, elections, if the people choose a government that is not right of center, will be ripped up by this gang of military thugs.

That, too, is a precondition, and one that disproves the coup's claims of being a civilian matter.

I have no doubt that the OAS will tell these usurpers the same: that they are not legitimate interlocutors for the country of Honduras (as hundreds of thousands of the country's citizens in the streets yesterday underscored quite well), so they have nothing to negotiate.

Tomorrow, the legitimate President in forced exile Manuel Zelaya is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The hour has now arrived for Washington to classify Honduras as a "military coup," triggering the cut-off of aid to a country whose budget is 65 percent dependent on foreign assistance.

As I mentioned this weekend, the only substitute source of funding to whom the Honduran coup regime can then look is to organized crime and narco-traffickers, as well as the gang ex-Cubans that have funded violent terrorists like Luis Posada Carilles. Then Honduras will become a matter not just for the State Department and the Pentagon, with its base in Honduran territory, but also for Homeland Security, its Immigration and Customs Enforcement division (say goodbye to your US visas, oligarchs), and the US Department of Justice, its DEA and FBI.

The Honduran coup - terrible as it is - could carry the silver lining of forcing a faster reorientation of US law enforcement agencies in the hemisphere, as every day that it survives Honduras grows as a beehive and laboratory of hardened criminality and its practitioners across the hemisphere. Diplomacy and the US Department of State really can't do that much about it. The hour approaches when Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder will have more to do with the next steps out of Washington toward the Honduras regime than Secretary Clinton and her ambassadors. And the coming dragnet holds promise to nail some of the terrorist players in the Oligarch Diaspora as well that have operated for too long with a wink and a nod from previous administrations in Washington.

Every day the Honduras coup survives, more and more of the hemispheric cockroaches will flock to it to use as base for their international operations in crime and violent terrorism. Having them all gathered in one kitchen could have the unintended consequence of making the job easier for the exterminators; all under one shoe. One, two, three... stomp.

Update: From the US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, today:

"We deplore the use of force against demonstrators in Tegucigalpa in recent days... Once more we call upon the de facto regime and on all actors in Honduras to contain all acts of violence, and seek a peaceful, constutional and lasting solution to the serious divisions in the country, by means of dialogue."

(I've translated that from a Spanish-language report so its possible that it varies slightly from the original statement in English.)

But this underscores my point: This situation has evolved beyond the capacity of diplomacy to solve it. Calling for "dialogue" - although its what diplomats do, including in their sleep - isn't going to shake anything loose from the Simian Council. It is time for State to move aside and bring on the officials with the badges.



Honduran gorillas?

Al, unfair to primates! Gorillas and chimps don't deserve comparison to the thugs who have seized power in Honduras. Otherwise, thanks for your thoughtful, informed comments- your perspective is essential.

a honduran Garcia Meza?

i'm so in your corner when it comes to basing our perceptions on good solid evidence.  so, while narco involvement would make sense ...



Forget about it

Obama is going to do what he always does now, fudge, will letting established interests get their way

to his credit, Zelaya figured out that he was going to be another Aristide unless he want back and rallied his supporters

if Zelaya returns, he is going to take action against the coup perpetrators, basically, the oligarchy that the US has supported since the beginning of the 20th Century, and probably before

there is no way Obama can allow that to happen, so it will be more of the same, pronouncements of support for Zelaya while continuing to run out the clock towards new elections down the road


@ Richard

Richard - If Hugo Chavez did not prosecute a single one of his 2002 kidnappers and coup participants, what makes you presume that Zelaya would? In fact, Zelaya has already promised them amnesty upon his return: "The Honduran people won't forgive them," he said, "but I will."

Those guys are adults. They understand that when one makes martyrs out of the opposition you give them a new political lease on life.

In fact, that's precisely how Hugo Chavez rose to popularity and the presidency: as a political prisoner in his country.

People in other lands just aren't as obsessed with punishment as people in the United States. It's a frequent error that some presume that Latin Americans would deal with delinquents in the same way that North Americans would.

Chavez's strategy of not prosecuting them in Venezuela proved brilliant: they're now disgraced, marginalized, and for seven years have been unable to muster significant public support.

yes, Chavez was brillliant

yes, I agree 100%, Chavez has been brilliant in this regard, one of his uncommon features as a political figure has been his ability to take action against his opponents in a measured, calculated way so as to avoid generating sympathy for them

we do tend to forget, though, that there was a price, a period after the coup in which his opposition remained emboldened, rejecting his overtures to participate in the political process, leading to the sabotage of late 2002 and early 2003, the shutdown of the oil industry, which Chavez manipulated to his advantage

but we shouldn't assume that the adoption of a similar strategy would necessarily result in the same outcome in Honduras, for one thing, Zelaya is not as popular as Chavez, even when discounting US media villification of him, and second, the oligarchy, and, especially, the military, have ties to the US military industrial complex that the Venezuelan opposition could have only fantasized about, indeed, the Venezuelan military at the time of the coup, and thereafter, was predominately supportive of Chavez

basically, it's a question of reasserting control over the government by removing and transferring supporters of the coup, not punishment through criminal prosecutions and show trials, but that won't prevent the Honduran opposition from responding hysterically, claiming that it is repressive, but, in fact, any leader who expects to pursue their agenda effectively will take action against those who refuse to follow his direction

Zelaya must retain this power upon his return, or he will have great difficulty doing anything, the question is not necessarily one of prosecution, but of political accountability, now, I am no authority on the Honduran constitution, but he will have to assert control over the Executive by marginalizing those who supported the coup within it

for me, as someone all too familiar with the increasingly corporate character of the Obama presidency, the declawing of Zelaya appears to be its goal in this situation, and, as you observed yesterday, it is up to the people of Honduras to make sure that this doesn't happen



Declaring section 7008 applies is a moot point now

Judging from the State Dept. press briefing today, they are not going to make the "legal decision" on calling this a coup any time soon.  They say that they have already "paused" aid which would be cut by that decision.  Unfortunately they have not specified which aid has been paused, except to point out that "democracy promotion" funding is exempt and can continue.

So this whole "legal decision" think is a bit of a distraction IMO.

Even if they do decide it is a coup, they can still continue to direct money to the political-elite opponents of the social movement in Hondruas.  Yes, that means they can still give money to the political elements of the coup.

The US is not out of the imperialism business, but it's having to change tactics.  That's a win for the social movements in America.


I see you've reprinted Ciccariello's idiotic "analysis" on your blog.  So maybe you can tell us all why John Negroponte - US ambassador to Honduras when Honduras was Reagan's "unsinkable battleship" in his illegal war on Nicaragua - is a credible source of opinion about the Obama admin's apparently secret pro-coup policy.  Because that's a pretty big red flag for those of us who actually follow latin american politics.


of course, Ciccariello-Maher's analysis primarily relies upon statements from the Obama administartion, and their actions, or lack thereof, that's why I posted it

and, if you read through it, you will see that they have carefully, and quite deliberately, avoided any action that would have resulted in the immediate collapse of the coup, and possibly even prevented it from happening, with the result that someone died at the airport yesterday, while hundreds of others have been detained and incarcerated since the coup occurred

the Obama administration couldn't even issue a statement prior to the departure of Zelaya's flight saying that he had a right to return to Honduras and resume the Presidency, and that he should be allowed to do so without violent interference, instead, it expressed concern about the prospect for violence, echoing the language of the Honduran Catholic bishop, a coup supporter, without adopting his more offensive attempt to blame Zelaya for any such outbreak

despite you DailyKos form of reasoning ("the article quotes Negroponte, ergo, the entirety of it must be nonsense"), the article interweaves a mosaic of the response of the Obama administration, an evaluation of it by people like Greg Grandin and Jeremy Scahill as well as the remarks of Negroponte

all in all, it is quite good, and, of course, if the Obama administration wants to establish that it is doing anything other than giving the coup sufficient space and oxygen to compel Zelaya to support a bad deal for his return, Hillary Clinton can always call a press conference and announce a cut off of military and economic aid to Honduras

but that's the question that you are trying to obscure by "mixing in sand" with your attack upon my posting an article quoting Negroponte, why are we on this merry-go-round of meetings, statements, meetings, statements . . when the actions that the US should now take, actions it should have taken days ago, are now obvious, as related by Laura Carlsen today


" bring on the officials with the badges " (?)

Really?  Seems this would be a flashback to Reagan/Bush I days of 'black intervention' by way of CIA/DEA ops. 

A wiser course would be for Obama to use backchannels to pressure the multilaterals (OAS, UN) and Mexico to put more significant pressure on a brokered solution.



You don't have to take JN's word for it, just read Clinton's admitting that they were playing the situation to get the best possible outcome for their long-term goals (which includes putting a halt on the social movement behind Zelaya and his changes in foreign and domestic policy).  The knew a regime-change was being planned, and were funding those who were attempting to do it.  The NYT quoted administration officials who were in talks with the opposition as they discussed regime-change.  The US publically expressed that they expected it to be done with appropriate legal cover, preserving democratic and constitutional order, but that's not what happened.

This is not about Obamaphiles vs Obamaphobes, yet another turf-war on the left, which has done nothing but obscure the reality on the ground in this and so many other situations.  It creates a spectacle that gives more power to words than to facts.  The facts help us understand how the situation has changed, and that helps us as activists here in the U.S. in our role of providing solidarity with the social movements across America who are demanding change THEY can believe in.


@ Peter

Peter - In this day and age, the "guys with the badges" are the ones that freeze and seize bank accounts, investigate money laundering, deny visas, prosecute organized and while collar crime... all things that would make it more cost-effective for these criminals to back down from their coup.

These are things that can be done without ever firing a gun.

(And as for Cicciariello's ridiculous screed, as I said yesterday, I will deal with it in due time. Today, while there is so much reporting to be done, I consider it the kind of distraction that only people who think putting "Ph.D. candidate in political theory" on their authors' bios impresses any member of the working class in Honduras or anywhere else would engage in at an hour of moral crisis like this one. His tome was an act of academic masturbation by someone who would rather pout than do any heavy lifting in the struggle.)

The use of force against peaceful protestors is deplorable

I'll keep this short and sweet, as I'm not here to debate. These videos just creeped on on twitter and blogspot today, from reporters on the ground in Tegucigalpa. I could think of no better place to share this info than The Field.


Videos of english speakers in the crowd of Zelaya supporters approaching the airport. Gunshots ring, panic ensues. This crowd is made up of woman and children!

I'm really confused, and

I'm really confused, and that is mostly because I am totally ignorant on issues in this part of the hemisphere.

Is the debate that Obama knew about the coup ahead of time, supported it, didn't stop it, but once the coup went down, they came out against the coup, sided with the OAS not to recognize the new president, and otherwise said the coup was illegal and the new leader is illegitimate.  Why would they support it in the first place if they knew once it happened they'd have to say they were against it and that they'd have to support Zelaya coming back?

In other words, if they wanted to support a coup, why didn't they pick a coup that would last?  Or why didn't they ensure that this coup was "legal" so as not to have created this mess?  And if we were in support of it, are there people within the new regime that are calling us out for being two-faced and for basically leaving them high and dry with this? 

Maybe I'm missing something here.

Agree w/you there Al -

Agree w/you there Al - against this group of business elites/corrupt ultra capitalists that type of enforcement likely inspire more fear than CIA/DEA (which they would likely co-opt)


I just read that Zelaya is meeting with Sec. Clinton on Tuesday.  What does that say about the administration's pro vs. anti coup position?

I know its not a priority right now,

But I hope that at some point, you'll expand on this statement Al:

People in other lands just aren't as obsessed with punishment as people in the United States.

Its something I've been wondering about as so many of the left feel so strongly about the need to punish Bush/Cheney for torture. I haven't sensed that the rest of the world is as caught up in that - even when they've been the victims of these policies and practices.

It does seem like the US has a fixation on punishment. Our prison industrial complex is certainly a testament to that.

Washington people - please go to this press conference today

and expose their lies - don't let them get away with their disinformation crusade.




A request for some authentic journalism

One of the things most lacking and most needed is a well-sourced timeline of exactly what happened in the events leading up to the ouster of Zelaya and a list of how the claims of the coupistas contradict the timeline. The Honduran newspapers are completely unreliable and the US newspapers have conflicting information. The reporting from alternative sources, including the Narcosphere is much better but is fragmented. The best human sources would seem to be Honduran journalists from places like Channel 11 and Channel 36, out of reach for me. 1. Events prior to the proposal of the referendum that may undermine the case that the dispute was actually about either the referendum or the firing of General Vasquez. One example is Zelaya's popularity, which the coupistas say was at 30% but apparently had risen to respectable levels near the date of the coup. 2. The date when Zelaya proposed a referendum. 3. The date when the Supreme Electoral Court intervened and an explanation of how they came to intervene. Also, an explanation of the involvement of other courts in the dispute and the followup of the Electoral Court in the dispute. 4. Any events prior to the march to the air force base that might have a bearing on why Zelaya decided to engage in civil disobedience. 5. Any legal background on the president's power to dismiss a member of the military. 6. The sequence of interventions by the parliament and the Supreme Court and Zelaya's response and the precise moment in these interventions at which the supposed removal from office occurred. 7. Confirmation of the report that 20 parliamentarians were excluded from the installation of Micheletti. Confirmation of the report that only one Supreme Court Justice signed the arrest warrant. What did the arrest warrant direct the military to do? 8. Followup on the dissemination of narrative by the coupistas over subsequent days to highlight internal contradictions and the shifting story. If I could do this, I would, because it would make a great difference to contextualizing this story. As it is, I have to hope that one of the journalists in the Narcosphere sees the importance of this analysis. (To preserve the integrity of the Narcosphere, this is the name under which I write on politics and have done since 9/11).

Time -- The great arbitraor of truth

Time  --  The great arbitraor of truth

Like the coup attempt in Gaza when 23 days of nonstop bombing could have been cut short by a quick phone call from Obama, the one most responsible is again Obama.

One quick phone call and all gets reversed, so when if ever will Obama make the call?  Well maybe never, as rich multinationals have everything to win by the coup.  And all to lose if oil and other resources in the Americas continue to be nationalized, unions become more powerful then lobiests and a high minimum wage makes slave labor a thing of the past. 

Not to mention the drug traffic which is the lubricant that gets things done in Empire USA.

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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