Soccer and the Political Crisis in Honduras
Hondurans had high hopes for two things last week: qualifying for the World Cup and settling the political crisis. Unfortunately for the catrachos (Hondurans), they came up short in both. And the country’s two failures mirrored one another.
High hopes dominated
First, high expectations. Last week, the mainstream press (which supports Roberto Micheletti) and the country’s politicians made the end of the political crisis appear all but guaranteed. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue—this became the welcome mantra after weeks of violence. But, as in soccer, political expectations can mask reality.
In this case, the sad truth was that neither Roberto Micheletti nor Manuel Zelaya had changed his position on the two crucial issues in this crisis: Zelaya’s possible restitution and the question of amnesty. Zelaya and the international community continue to insist on restitution, while Micheletti has lost his voice with daily declarations that he is powerless before the country’s other political institutions, all of which want Zelaya in jail or in exile. Micheletti’s recent offer to consider Zelaya’s return after the elections belied his pleas of impotence, but he continues to refuse to entertain either pre-election restitution or amnesty.
Unsurprisingly, the two sides suspended talks until Tuesday after dealing with the principal issues except for these two critical points. In terms of negotiating strategy, this agenda makes sense: start small, build trust and get both sides so invested in the process that they will be less likely to turn their backs on the talks. But it remains risky. The clock continues to tick and another failed round of negotiations could prove catastrophic.
That brings us to unstable leadership. Already, Zelaya has threatened to withdraw his support for upcoming elections if a resolution is not reached by October 15. It is hard to see what this move (presumably taken to counter Micheletti’s stalling) will accomplish, except potentially pushing
Meanwhile, Micheletti also made a fool of himself this week. As the Organization of American States (OAS) countries’ leaders came to town, his smile was irrepressible. Then, when these delegates reiterated their support for Zelaya’s restitution—the same position they have held since June 28—he nearly broke down in exasperation at a press conference. It was if, by repeating “dialogue” over and over earlier this week, he had convinced himself that suddenly the world was going to side with him. But not even $400,000 spent on lobbying in
The unpredictability on both sides of this crisis raises a final point: the specter of violence. Last week, Micheletti lifted the State of
In the meantime, Hondurans are left hoping against hope that the two sides will find common ground this week. Back on the soccer field, these same Hondurans will also be praying for a victory against El Salvador coupled with a Costa Rican loss—the country’s last chance to guarantee qualifying for the World Cup.
*Daniel Altschuler is a contributing blogger to americasquarterly.org conducting research in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He is a Rhodes Scholar and doctoral candidate in Politics at the University of Oxford, and his research focuses on civic and political participation in Honduras and Guatemala.
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