btn_subscribe-top
btn_give-a-gift
btn_login
btn_signup
btn_rss

Blog

Arias Mediation Efforts - Not U.S. Sanctions - Offer Best Hope for Honduras

July 7, 2009

by Eric Farnsworth

Secretary of State Clinton’s meeting today with deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was intended to show the support—visibly—of the United States for a return to the status quo ante, but it also served a more important purpose: by getting Zelaya on board with the idea of allowing Costa Rica’s President and Nobel Laureate Oscar Arias to mediate the constitutional crisis, the United States buys time to consider all appropriate options and actions.  Cooler heads can now prevail, because we’ll presumably be spared additional acts of the theater of the absurd that saw Zelaya circling high above Tegucigalpa with a camera crew from Venezuela’s TeleSur on board and a number of other regional actors on a chase plane in tow. Repeated attempts to return would have been polarizing and unhelpful, potentially adding to the violence on the ground.  And really, do Hondurans of any political stripe need to be lectured about the practice of democracy by the Presidents of Ecuador, Nicaragua, Paraguay, or Argentina

Comment on this post

Now, everyone can take a deep breath and attempt to resolve the crisis away from the Tegucigalpa tinderbox.

That includes the United StatesA number of loud voices have already been heard urging that the United States should attempt to isolate Honduras, cutting off trade, aid, education, military, and other benefits beyond the pause that has already been announced. Others suggest that individuals in the de facto Honduran government should have their U.S. visas yanked.  Some even go so far (quietly) as to suggest that Temporary Protected Status for Hondurans living in the United States should be suspended to pressure the Honduran economy through reduced remittances and the forced return of migrants. 

Such actions would miss their intended target—the de facto government—and be ill-advised.  Why?  Because, by definition, the crisis should be resolved no later than January 29, when the new president, elected on November 29 (if not before—see my earlier blog post) takes office.  And then neither Zelaya nor acting President Roberto Micheletti would be in the Presidencia.  Under a general amnesty, life moves on and the whole sorry episode recedes to history. 

If the United States over-reacts by putting sanctions on the country and its individuals this will then prove difficult to unwind.  It’s one thing, for example, to suspend Honduras from the Organization of American States (if not a bit curious that those who sat in judgment of Honduras such as Nicaragauan Presdient Daniel Ortega are themselves democratically-challenged).  It’s quite another to reduce or cut aid to the hemisphere’s third poorest nation after Haiti and Bolivia.  After all, those who get hit at that point are the most impoverished, but as has been proven time and time again (Cuba, anyone, or Haiti?) economic sanctions can hurt a country but will tend to have little impact on an unyielding government determined to remain in power.  And when the Honduras government changes, early next year if not before, sanctions will have caused a serious rethink among Hondurans who are traditionally close to the United States, and will also have pinched Honduras’ economy, giving the new government an even more difficult chore in restoring Honduras to political health and economic growth.  That’s one sure way to ensure that we get off on the wrong foot with the new government. 

Now, with the Arias mediation effort, we have the opportunity to see how the situation evolves, and to craft our policy responses accordingly.

In fact, it’s possible that that no additional steps will be necessary, because the initiative for outside mediation provides the best opportunity for Hondurans to resolve this crisis, which they likely would not be able to do on their own given intensive national polarization.  President Arias is a skilled mediator and negotiator, and is recognized and respected for his abilities.  With the active support of the international community, he stands a real chance of success.

Finally, a thought.  For all the anti-U.S. rhetoric and actions that Zelaya took before he was bundled off to Costa Rica in the middle of the night, it’s interesting that when push came to shove, he decided that the road for his return to Tegucigalpa went through Washington, not Caracas, Buenos Aires, or Brasilia.  Surely, despite our detractors and their enablers in the think tank community, that says a thing or two about continued U.S. regional influence?

*Eric Farnsworth is a contributing blogger to americasquarterly.org. He is Vice President of the Council of the Americas in Washington DC.

Tags: Oscar Arias, Honduras, Hillary Clinton, Manuel Zelaya, military coup, Roberto Micheletti

To speak with an expert on this topic, please contact the communications office at: communications@as-coa.org or (212) 277-8384.
blog comments powered by Disqus

 
 

Americas Quarterly's Cuba Coverage

Check in with AQ for updates on U.S.-Cuba normalization.

 

Connect with AQ


Twitter YouTube Itunes App Store

 

Most Popular

MOST POPULAR ON AQ ONLINE

  • Most Viewed
  • Past:
  • 1 day
  • 1 week
  • 1 month
  • 1 year

AQ and Efecto Naím: NTN24 Partnership

June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.

 

AQ BLOGGERS REPORT FROM

Atlanta, GA
   Sabrina Karim
 
Bogotá, Colombia
   Jenny Manrique
 
Caracas, Venezuela
   Paula Ramón
 
Guatemala City, Guatemala
   Nic Wirtz
 
Mexico City, Mexico
   Juan Manuel Henao
 
Monterrey, Mexico
   Arjan Shahani
 
Montreal, Canada
   John Parisella
 
New York, NY
   Adam Frankel
   Christopher Sabatini
 
Ottawa, Canada
   Huguette Young
 
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
   Stephen Kurczy
 
Salvador, Brazil
   Paulo Rogério
  
San Salvador, El Salvador
   Julio Rank Wright
  Carlos Ponce
 
Santiago, Chile
   Joseph Hinchliffe
 
Washington, DC
  Eric Farnsworth
  Liz Harper
  Christian Gómez, Jr.
  Christine Gomes
  Kezia McKeague
  Johanna Mendelson Forman