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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cowboy Zelaya stars in "High Noon"

The mess in Honduras illustrates how far from perfect are the political institutions and structures of the country. We should not be surprised. Americans like to think that democracy is something that only they know how to build, and that implanting it abroad is simply a question of building structures and installing processes like those in the States, despite the fact that even in the U.S. they often don't work very well either. (George W. Bush's reelection, for example).

When you "construct" a democracy it often becomes a democracy in name only. In Honduras, for example, the oligarchs still hold the reins of power in the congress, and the businessmen and elites still run the country. Manuel Zelaya, who thought he had a recipe for changing all that, has disastrously set the country on a path that likely will require decades for the opposing forces to reach a reconciliation. The United States, blundering into the mess, has gotten itself boxed into a corner: Washington supports the would-be tyrant, trying to defend the constitutional process. But, in fact, there really is no rule of law in Honduras. That is the rub. In Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Venezuela, Bolivia and other countries, regimes of both the Left and the Right do not respect the rule of law. The rule of law (estado de derecho) implies and requires an independent judiciary and legal system, free of political pressures, ideological or partisan agendas. Until the rule of law exists, there can be no democracy. That is true in the United States, and around the world.

One U.S. diplomat is telling it like it is. In the New York Times, W. Lewis Amselem, the acting American representative to the Organization of America States, calls Zelaya “irresponsible and foolish” for returning to Honduras before a negotiated settlement to the crisis there. Chris Sabatini, an analyst at the Council of the Americas described Zelaya as “a dangerously capricious leader.”

What both failed to say was that the Roberto Micheletti defacto government was equally "irresponsible and foolish" to have carried out the coup d'etat in the first place. Now, after three months of impasse, with endless diplomatic efforts by Costa Rica's Oscar Arias, the OAS, Washington and others, there may be signs of a resolution.

On Monday (9.28.09) Micheletti issued a decree limiting civil liberties and rights. Then he went on national TV to apologize and say the decree would soon be lifted. Nearly everyone in Honduras appears ready for some sort of resolution. Who knows what Zelaya the cowboy will do. Is it nearly "High Noon" in Tegucigalpa?

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