International politics have never been far from the surface of the presidential crisis in Honduras.
– What was the role of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in supporting ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya?
– Was the mediator in the case Costa Rican President Oscar Arias truly neutral? Or did he have advance warning that Zelaya would be deposed and then sent into exile in his pajamas to Costa Rica?
– And what is the full agenda of U.S. policymakers, who don’t like Chavez, but overtly support Zelaya as the constitutional president of Honduras?
Zelaya is vowing to march back into the country overland through Nicaragua this weekend. He hopped into an SUV in Managua on Thursday and drove himself north to the border, urging supporters to meet him there. Zelaya and his interim successor, Roberto Micheletti, have not budged on their mutual demands despite the mediation of Arias.
One new wrinkle in the story is the revelation that Lanny Davis, a longtime ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton, was working with Honduran businessmen who opposed Zelaya and promoting his ouster. Davis has been talking up the coup in Congress.
Davis’ role in the Honduran case was described in a report by Roberto Lovato at the online magazine, American Prospect.
Robert White, a former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, now president of the Washington-based Center for International Policy, an independent think-tank in Washington, discussed the case with
“If you want to understand who the real power behind the [Honduran] coup is,” White told Lovato, “you need to find out who’s paying Lanny Davis.”
Davis was White House counsel to President Clinton from 1996-1998, and worked with Hillary Clinton on her unsuccessful presidential bid. He has been making the rounds in Congress, promoting the idea that the Honduran coup was justified and playing down widespread reports of repression and curbs on the news media.
Lovato also interviewed Davis:
“My clients represent the CEAL, the [Honduras Chapter of] Business Council of Latin America,” Davis said when reached at his office last Thursday. “I do not represent the government and do not talk to President [Roberto] Micheletti. My main contacts are Camilo Atala and Jorge Canahuati. I’m proud to represent businessmen who are committed to the rule of law.” Atala, Canahuati, and other families that own the corporate interests represented by Davis and the CEAL are at the top of an economic pyramid in which 62 percent of the population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank.”
White and those who oppose Micheletti and the coup said that the underlying problem is that a small class of businessmen in Honduras don’t recognize or care about that larger context — the vast majority of Hondurans are abjectly poor and have suffered while an oligarchic minority has thrived.
Coups, White told Lovato, “happen because very wealthy people want them and help to make them happen, people who are used to seeing the country as a money machine and suddenly see social legislation on behalf of the poor as a threat to their interests. The average wage of a worker in free trade zones is 77 cents per hour.”
One of Zelaya’s cardinal sins, critics of the coup charge, was that he was a dissident member of the wealthy business class, and converted to social-minded pursuits only after he was elected to office.
Davis and other opponents say that Zelaya had been in the process of creating an official coup, subverting the constitution and attempting to maintain himself in office much the same way as Chavez has seized absolute power in Venezuela.
Again, the bottom line, what does this all mean to the suffering, malnourished Honduran majority? They watch politicians come and go from squalid slums and never see life getting any better at all.
- Peter Eisner
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