The pressure on the Honduran government continues:
Spain has recalled its Ambassador to Honduras “for consultations” and “to show the EU’s firmness,” according to Spain’s foreign minister. France and Italy followed suit. Hugo Chavez didn’t waste any time and praised their actions.
US suspends military relations with Honduras, but (at least for now) the US Ambassador has not been withdrawn.
Al Jazeera video:
Following the OAS ultimatum, yesterday froze economic aid to Honduras “a resolution of the present crisis.”
Honduras Credit Rating May Be Cut on Political Risk, S&P Says
Honduras’ sovereign rating may be cut should a prolonged political crisis and strained public finances erode foreign-exchange reserves, Standard & Poor’s said.
The credit assessor yesterday placed the nation’s foreign- and local-currency debt on creditwatch “with negative implications” after the Honduran military ousted President Manuel Zelaya in a coup on June 28. Police used tear gas and water canons to break up protesting backers of Zelaya the following day, while thousands rallied to support the newly installed interim President Roberto Micheletti.
“The current political crisis comes at a time of economic contraction at home and abroad, weakening the government’s ability to adjust fiscal and monetary policies,” S&P’s New York-based analysts Joydeep Mukherji and Roberto Sifon Arevalo said in a statement.
The $12.3 billion economy, the third smallest in Central America, may expand 1.5 percent in 2009, according to the International Monetary Fund, compared with a forecast for a 1.5 percent contraction for all of Latin America. The nation’s international reserves have dropped 13 percent from a record $2.7 billion reached in June 2006, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The economy would be devastated should Central American neighbors extend a trade ban implemented after the coup, Roque Rivera, president of the Honduran banking association said yesterday. No U.S. banks have shut lines of credit with local lenders and it’s unlikely they will, Rivera said.
Commenter Einar points out
“Please note that Manuel Zelaya seized power in January 2006 and has thus spent a huge amount of the record international reserves.”
News from the country:
In a telephone interview with Honduran Supreme Court Justice Rosalinda Cruz asserted that Honduras’s military acted under judicial orders:
The arrest order she cited, approved unanimously by the court’s 15 justices, was released this afternoon along with documents pertaining to a secret investigation that went on for weeks under the high court’s supervision
Cruz said the military decided to shuttle Zelaya out of the country for his safety and that of other Hondurans because riots would’ve erupted had he been held for trial.
“If he had been allowed to stay in the country, there would’ve been blood on the streets,” she said.
Although lawmakers were moving toward impeachment proceedings against Zelaya for trying to conduct the poll, the ouster allows him to portray himself as a “victim,” said Rafael Lopez, a senior Honduras adviser to the Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems.
David Matamoros, a member of Honduras’ Supreme Electoral Tribunal, also defended the military’s action.
He said Zelaya originally called the vote a plebiscite, then, when that was barred, shifted to describing it as a poll, creating uncertainty as to its legal standing and his intent. No government agency was willing to conduct the vote, he said. All the ballots and equipment for the illegal poll were flown in on a Venezuelan plane, he said. The court ordered the materials confiscated.
In San Pedro, Honduras, La Prensa has side-by-side photos of the demonstrations. The photo on the left is titled “For the Constitution and the new government”; on the right “For Mel [Zelaya]”
Zelaya’s ouster is no “coup” but a lawful transition of power made necessary by his own defiance. As our colleague Mary O’Grady points out, the Honduran Supreme Court had ordered a halt to his unconstitutional efforts to extend his term, and the military arrested him for defying the court’s order. It’s as if the Angry Left’s paranoid fantasy had come true and George W. Bush refused to leave office this January.
A Times news story reports that the OAS–the group to which Obama is turning “for a multilateral solution”–has issued an “ultimatum to Honduras that it would be suspended from the organization if Mr. Zelaya was not returned to power.” Obama and the OAS, thus are all on the wrong side–Chavez’s side. It seems awfully credulous to say Obama outmaneuvered Chavez. It’s more like the other way around.
James Kirchick, in Commentary:
Though his [Obama’s] public opposition to the “coup” might have thrown Chavez off for a day or so, it didn’t take long for the caudillo of Caracas to reorient himself, and now Obama is playing directly into Chavez’s hands. Ranting about American imperialism just a few days ago, Chavez — evidently delighted by his newfound friend in the White House — now says that Zelaya should score a meeting with Obama when he’s in Washington as such a photo-op would “deliver a major blow” to the interim government in Tegucigalpa, Honduras’ capital. Indeed, it would.
So let’s concede Romero’s point that Obama has “outmaneuvered” Chavez by escaping the traditional role of the president serving as a pinata for an anti-American leader. That’s very good for Obama’s self-esteem (recall the president’s relief, expressed in a speech at the April Summit of the Americas following an hours-long tirade from Daniel Ortega, that the Nicaraguan strongman “did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old”) but what have we gotten in return? U.S. interests in the region are not being served by continued international isolation of Honduras’s interim government, nor would they be served by restoring to power an anti-American authoritarian like Zelaya, who has approval ratings of less than 30%. Yet that’s what American policy supports. Instead of leading on this issue, we’re following, and following the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez at that. But, hey, it’s nice to have these guys saying nice things about us for once, no?
I’ll be updating this post with news during the day.
There will be no podcast today due to scheduling conflicts.
Yesterday the Honduran Congress suspended the Constitutional guarantees to freedom of assembly and circulation during the curfew.
Costa Rica’s president Óscar Arias is opposed to Zaleya’s return. Arias, Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe and Guatemala’s Alvaro Colom all are opposed to Zaleya’s reinstatement.
Yesterday Zelaya was saying that he will return to Honduras with Chilean president Michelle Bachelet; this was denied by Chilean chancellor Mariano Fernández, who disapproved of Zelaya’s removal but also deplored the OAS’s ultimatum as “extremely severe.”
Florida International University professor Eduardo Gamarra: Zelaya’s ‘poll’ more than that.
Washington Times op-ed: Obama stands with tyrants: Honduras is part of a pattern.
IBD: Honduras Defiant:
As the world follows Chavez’s lead in trying to force Honduras to accept a lawless man as its leader, disasters for Honduras loom.
The tiny country is impoverished. Its seven million people have a per capita income of just $1,635 a year. Its economy has been enfeebled by Zelaya himself. He has fixed prices and wages, and opened the door to drug traffickers, creating a burgeoning narcostate.
It seems impossible that Honduras could withstand new draconian pressure and isolation over taking Zelaya back.
Yet evidence shows that Hondurans consider the latter fate worse. If Zelaya is restored as president, he will resume his dictatorial ambitions while Hondurans lose their future freedoms. Oh, the OAS will tell them “dialogue” will solve it.
But Hondurans know better: If the rule of law won’t dissuade Zelaya from being dictator, why would sweet talk work?
My friend Kate has an excellent post with opinion and analysis, Some brief thoughts on Honduras, that you should read.
While Zelaya says he’s heading to Honduras with the OAS’s Insulza, the WSJ reports:
OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza is seeking to meet in a third country with a delegation of Honduras’s new leaders to demand Mr. Zelaya’s reinstatement, according to U.S. officials. Mr. Insulza is to report to the OAS members by July 6.