a brilliant post from a brilliant mind...
Honduras: what CNN will probably not tell you
Before I start on this post, it is CNN "en español" that I am thinking off, CNN in English is still on its 23/24 on Michael Jackson. Since I am not fully back in business I am just going to make this post a semi random collection of notes.
OAS: It is going to prove once again to be useless on the matter. After having allowed Chavez to do so much, what moral authority does the OAS has to stand on any side of the Honduras mess? And I am not getting started on the latest about opening the door back to Cuba. I understand that the anti Zelaya camp did not even want the OAS to show up. After the mess the OAS left Venezuela in, no wonder...
OAS secretary Insulza: another one with crocodile tears big time. After having said to El Pais a few weeks ago that he did not find anything wrong with democracy in Venezuela he is now screaming bloody murder. Yeah, right, perfect representative of what the OAS has become, preparing his reeelction campaign by courting the only man whose vote he must have (the US vote is pretty much irrelevant today in the OAS).
Latin America presidents: of course they are all going to condemn the coup in Honduras even though I am sure secretly many are smiling. But the fact of the matter is that South of the Rio Grande ALL presidents sleep bad at night when rumors come from the barracks. Well, I might remove Costa Rica from that list but that would be the lone exception. So, since prevention is the best cure, well, they all condemn any coup, even if they like it. Who knows when they will need the elevator sent back.
The Honduras coupsters: who is the coupster really, Zelaya for forcing the issue on a vote apparently unconstitutional or the other side for not trying harder to reach some agreement? One thing is certain, whoever is in charge of the coup remembers the way it is done: send the ex president promptly into exile, the first mistake that the Venezuelan coupsters made in 2002 by not shipping post haste Chavez and family to Cuba. In other words, you do the coup or you do not do it. NOTE: this whole post cannot be read in any way or form as my endorsement or criticism of any coup anywhere, it is just a statement of fact. In some cases a coup or even an invasion can be perfectly justified, just as when Vietnam invaded Cambodia to put an end to the Khmer Rouge. It is all a matter of circumstances, at least in third world countries. Or are you going to tell me that you would condemn a coup against say, Mugabe or Bashir?
The coup in Honduras: let's hold our breath for a minute until we know exactly what was going on before the coup. In particular the possible Venezuelan intervention in support of an electoral act that was declared unconstitutional by the other independent powers of Honduras. It seems that the inspiration of Caracas for that illegal "consultation" went as far as Caracas printing the ballots! Let's not forget this crucial fact: in Honduras there is a separation of powers, which does not excuse any wrong doing but should be considered.
Was the coup unavoidable? It seems it was. Zelaya did the cardinal mistake that Chavez did in 2002: give an order that could not be legally executed by the chiefs of the army he nominally commanded. In 2002 Chavez asked for the army to get ready to shoot on a civilian march and the army refused. In Honduras Zelaya asked the army to monitor an election declared unconstitutional by the other powers and the army had to chose. When an army must go against its commander in chief, one of the two has to be removed. That is the way things go. Be it Truman removing McArthur the war hero, be it Lucas Rincon announcing Chavez resignation. In each case a big mess was created by the constitutional irresponsibility of a given individual (the president, his/her army chief of staff or both).
Chavez screams: it is indeed amusing to watch the official state TV in Venezuela (including Telesur) tied up in knots, way more upset probably about the Honduras coup than the people of Honduras. OK, I am guessing that but I would love to be proven wrong. But why is Chavez so worried about Honduras, to the point of threatening with military intervention and, all in all, trying to make things worse than what they already are? It is very simple: Chavez is much more interested in building a personal empire than worrying about what happens to the Venezuelan people. He paid enough money to create the ALBA that says yes to anything he wants and he is not going to relinquish that easily. Mine! Mine!
What is the Chavez strategy? Well, to circle Colombia so as to make Uribe like governments a thing on the past and recreate La Gran Colombia of Bolivar. He already got Ecuador and Nicaragua. He already tried Costa Rica and Peru and failed but new opportunities will come. But there is also a much longer term objective for Venezuela and Cuba: Mexico. To get to Mexico you need to get Guatemala and once you got Honduras (and Salvador?) Guatemala cannot be far behind. From Guatemala touching the Zapatista movement of Chiapas, all crazy dreams are allowed for Chavez. You think I am kidding? Think again: look at your maps and what better way to get back at the US but by installing an hostile regime on its borders? Maybe there is still 10 years needed but Castro-Chavismo is busy on that (though once Fidel croaks I am not so sure Cuba will be dreaming on that anymore).
By the way, was not Fidel bent on sabotaging the rule of Vicente Fox? Was not Chavez an issue in the latest Mexican Presidential election?
What did Chavez pay Zelaya? A simple arithmetic is enough. According to the CIA world fact books, Honduras has roughly 7.8 million people with an average GDP of 4,400 USD. Venezuela has a GDP of 13,500 for almost 4 times the population. Well, if you add Miranda, Aragua, Caracas and Carabobo you have roughly Honduras at yet a higher GDP than the Venezuela average. And imagine what Chavez spent in these 4 districts for his campaign of 2008 and 2009 (you know, the distribution of refrigerators, food, etc., for free). With that amount of money and an ambitious Zelaya it was easy to buy the executive of Honduras, and a secure sycophantic vote at the OAS for when Chavez represses further in Venezuela. In fact, I am willing to bet that Chavez spent less on Honduras than he spent in these states electoral campaign: the advantage of dealing with poor countries where a dollar goes further.
And what do CNN en español and the Carter Center say? I am amazed at hearing the words of the Associate Director for Latin America of the Carter Center being interviewed by CNN as I type this. He is Marcelo Varela Erasheva and he is simply supporting Zelaya, there is no other way to say it charitably. Because the other interpretations are that he is clueless, one of those idealists that has actually little understanding of the real world, or worse, he is bought by Chavez. I am not going into what he said but I am going to write this: if he represents the Carter Center, the organization who singlehandedly did the most to screw Venezuela then the new Honduras government (legal or not, legitimate or not) must make sure to exclude the Carter Center from any future action over Honduras. It is amazing to hear Marcelo Varela bemoan about Honduras of all the abuses to democracy, abuses hardly worse than those the Carter Center is keeping silent over Chavez and Venezuela.
Conclusions so far: Again our Latin tempers are creating messes that could have been avoided with a little bit more of honesty and patience. As far as I am concerned Zelaya and the people who ousted him should all be sent packing into exile; one for his new found ambition to be reelected in the country that has, I heard, the harshest term limit system; and the Honduras congress who in spite of its unanimity to select a successor did not manage things quite well. The new "government" needs to account clearly and fast of their actions and bring forward the complete evidence as to the need to oust Zelaya in such an expedite way. Knowing Chavez it is probably not too difficult to build a dossier on the matter.
But my real conclusion is that, again, presidential systems are more and more the curse of our continent where with caudillo mentality, its easy acceptation by most, mass media and cheap populist promises support is easy garnered regardless of the consequences. If Zelaya had been the prime minister, he would have been ousted without any problem, nobody would have really cared. The Carter Center would be well advised to think about such matters instead of sending its guy to defend Zelaya without any real questioning of the reasons that came to that crisis: after all it should give Marcelo Varela pause that in Honduras the courts AND the Congress agreed. 2 out of 3 ain't bad, no? It is not because the presidential system has worked in the US (only, I can argue) that it is the panacea everywhere. It is amazing where we keep finding this US messianic bent over its values, in spite of all the slaps received through history.