July 3, 2009

Tegucigalpa Chronicles

Quico says: Folks, I'm sorry this blog has gone Honduras-crazy over the last few days. No era para menos. I'll return to blogging to stuff I know something about shortly, but I just needed to get this one last thing off my chest.

Buried in this absolutely fascinating piece in the Miami Herald interviewing Honduran army attorney Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza, where the guy straightforwardly admits the ejection of Zelaya from the country was illegal - but justifies it anyway - we find this hallucinogenic passage that seems to encapsulate OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza's bizarre behavior throughout the crisis:
Zelaya has said he will try to stage a brazen comeback on Sunday. The Organization of American States' secretary general, José Miguel Insulza, arrives in Tegucigalpa Friday to try to lay the groundwork for Zelaya's return. Insulza refuses to meet any member of the new administration led by the former head of Congress, Roberto Micheletti.
Wait, wait, wait...how do the last two sentences in that paragraph even make sense together? Does Insulza intend to "lay the groundwork for Zelaya's return" by negotiating with the hot dog hawker in front of the presidential palace? What exactly is the plan here?

Pardon my rampant Teodorismo here, but you don't need to be a ranting anti-OAS fanatic to say Insulza's not exactly covering himself in glory here. At times of crisis the continent needs serious diplomacy from the head of the Inter-American system, not this kind of permanent grandstanding.

(Seriously, though, check out that Miami Herald piece. It's a blockbuster. This Bayardo Inestroza guy's a piece of work.)

July 2, 2009

Hugui Go Home

Quico says: Here's a question worth pondering: how come Roberto Micheletti woke up this morning in the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa instead of across the hall from Carmona in whichever flea-bag hotel in Bogotá he lives in now?

Having led a universally reviled military coup in one of the smallest, weakest, poorest, most aid-dependent countries in the Americas, how the hell has Micheletti managed to hang on through thick and thin as a head of state recognized only by Israel and Taiwan?

The answer, my friends, has a first name and a last name: Hugo friggin' Chávez.

Think about it: without Chávez to use as a foil, what plausible legitimation strategy did Micheletti have?

Without Hugo's incredibly unsubtle meddling in Honduran affairs, what imaginable combination of words could have allowed Micheletti to rally an important part of Honduran public opinion behind him? Without the preposterous saber-rattling, the hypertrophied gas-baggery, the unending stream of unadulterated bullshit streaming out of Caracas, how could a guy defy all of international public opinion and stay in charge of a country so aid dependent, it basically lives off of the kindness of strangers?

Seventeen years on from his own coup, Chávez is still the Latin American coupster's best friend: the one way people in Micheletti's position get to approximate some kind legitimacy. Without Chávez, the idea that Zelaya's powerplay fit into some larger international plot to do in Honduras's democratic institutions wouldn't even make sense. But with Hugui - and the petrochequera, obviously- lined up behind him, the contention becomes scarily, straightforwardly plausible.

And that, when you think about it, is why the destabilization rap against Chávez sticks: not just because he makes it easier for people like Rafael Correa to get away with the stuff Correa gets away with, but because he also makes it easier for people like Micheletti to get away with the stuff he - insólitamente - gets away with.

June 30, 2009

The wolf decries the plight of the sheep

Juan Cristóbal says: -As I write this, the deposed President of Honduras is giving a speech to the UN.

As I write this, all TV and radio stations in Venezuela are forced to carry the speech live. Yes, you read right: all TV and radio stations are carrying the speech live.

Hard to believe? No. This is the sort of abuse of power that happens in Venezuela every day.

Let me be frank about this, because there's no way of making this latest outrage literary, elegant or erudite: who in Venezuela gives a rat's ass about the fate of the Honduran president? And why should Venezuela's TV-viewing, radio-listening public be forced to submit themselves to the diatribes of a deposed Juan Valdez-lookalike who, for all we know about him, violated Honduran law and simply got what he had coming to him?

Ever since this whole telenovela started on Sunday, ordinary bloggers like myself have been forced to delve into the obscure machinations of Honduran politics. I have received mass emails quoting the Honduran Constitution - four times! And now, Hugo Chávez forces Mr. Zelaya's speech down the throat of every cantina-dweller, every taguara-owner, every radio-listening truck driver in Venezuela, just because he can, just because he has unchecked power.

But the above does not constitute the biggest downside of all of this.

I said it before and Alvaro Vargas Llosa agrees: the greatest sin that Honduras' golpistas have committed is that, thanks to their actions, Hugo Chávez, Raúl Castro and Rafael Correa have transmorgified into the defenders of Latin American democracy, putting them at the forefront of the fight for the rule of law. Pretty soon, I expect Robert Mugabe will make an appearance in Managua to express solidarity toward Mr. Zelaya, and Burma's generals will withdraw their Ambassador to Honduras in protest for this grievous offense to freedom-lovers everywhere.

Somebody pass the barf bags.

June 29, 2009

Grand Theft Opinion

Quico says: So I wrote up a thing on the Honduran mess over at The New Republic's mass blog, The Plank. A taste:
If anything, the hemisphere's unanimous, outraged reaction to events in Tegucigalpa--which, for once, saw Washington and Caracas in strong agreement against the coup--underlines the region's pathologically imbalanced veneration of presidential power. After all, in 1999, when Hugo Chávez, with the agreement of the Venezuelan Supreme Court, moved to shut down Venezuela's democratically elected congress, we heard nary a peep from the OAS. And in 2007, when Ecuador's own neoauthoritarian president Rafael Correa moved to shut down congress with the Supreme Court's approval, nobody cried coup. In neither case were those closures allowed by the existing constitution, yet nobody would've taken cries of a "coup" seriously.

Somehow, though, when the Honduran Congress, with the support of the Supreme Court, moves against the president, the continent's foreign affairs ministries fly into deep crisis mode.
And, erm...if that reads to you suspiciously like Juan's take in the comment thread yesterday...well, there's a reason for that.

June 28, 2009

Two faces of Hugo Chávez

Juan Cristóbal says: - Hugo Chávez on last week's events in Iran:

"The Bolivarian government of Venezuela expresses its firm rejection of the ferocious and unfounded campaign to discredit, from abroad, that has been unleashed against Iran, with the objective of muddying the political climate of this brother country. We demand the immediate end to maneuvers to intimidate and destabilize the Islamic Revolution."

Hugo Chávez on today's coup d'etat against Honduran President and ally Manuel Zelaya:

"If they swear in (Congress President) Micheletti, we will overthrow him. We will overthrow him, it's that simple. We will do anything we need to do in order to put Manuel Zelaya in power once again."