Brazil Takes Center Stage In Honduras

Brazil has taken center stage in the situation in Honduras, deciding to host ousted Honduras President Zelaya in its embassy in Tegucigalpa:

After what he described as a 15-hour trek through the mountains, taking back roads to avoid checkpoints, Mr. Zelaya and his wife took refuge at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital.

Obviously, Brazilian President Lula da Silva and the deposed Honduran President were unhappy that attention had fallen away from the Honduran situation. Here's the part that is interesting to me:

. . . Brazil’s president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva showed no sign of bending to Mr. Micheletti’s [the coup administration leader] administration, which it does not recognize as legitimate. At a dinner in New York on Monday night, Mr. da Silva criticized the removal of Mr. Zelaya once again and said Brazil and the United States should work together to guarantee that democratically elected leaders are respected.

“We cannot accept any more military coups,” Mr. da Silva said. “We don’t have the right to accept that anyone can think they have the right to throw out someone that is democratically elected and take their place.”

(Emphasis supplied.) Here's what's interesting - did Brazil consult with the United States before agreeing to house Zelaya at its embassy? My bet is no. The U.S. secretary of State's response was rather terse:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday evening that the two sides must find a way to talk. “It’s imperative that dialogue begin,” she said. “It’s also imperative that the return of President Zelaya does not lead to any conflict or violence, but instead that everyone act in a peaceful way to try to find some common ground.”

In the end, what is this all about? Even if restored, Zelaya has 3 months left in office and Honduras is scheduled to have an election on November 29, approximately 2 months from now. Does Zelaya have a puppet candidate running? Will the election be a referendum on Zelaya? If so, to what end? Is all this commotion really about getting this deal?

Mr. Zelaya has accepted a proposal offered by Mr. Arias that would restore him to the presidency with limited powers and grant an amnesty on all sides. Mr. Micheletti has rejected it.

Do the coup leaders want Zelaya out of Honduras for the foreseeable future? And does Zelaya just wish to return to his home? This is all quite strange.

Especially Brazil's decision to move right into the middle of it. If the situation becomes violent, what will the world community think of Brazil's actions here? What will the U.S. think of it?

Speaking for me only

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    Wast it a coup in the first place? (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Saul on Tue Sep 22, 2009 at 09:58:09 AM EST
    I too do not understand what this is all about.  Why the extreme measure by Zelaya to come back just for 3 months.

    The Honduras Constitution specifically says, from what was said on the news, that anyone that goes against the Constitution is automatically out office.  You actually put yourself out of office if you go against the Constitution in any way.  The SC of Honduras was just following the Constitution and got Zelaya out.   Honduras does not have an impeachment clause in their Constitution.  The guy that took over was the next in line if the president is out.  He say he is willing to step down if this gets settled. The only questionable thing was his exiled to another country.

    Can't for the life of me understand why the U.S. is backing Zelaya.  He wanted to change the Constitution by force in order to stay in power like Chavez and Castro.

    This guy reminds me of Massimo Fanucci with his white hat going around waving his hands wanting all those around him to adore him and fear him.

    "We" aren't. (2.00 / 0) (#7)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Sep 22, 2009 at 10:28:54 AM EST
    Obama is.

    And he is doing so because the guy is a Marxist bud of Chavez.


    EXACTLY! (2.00 / 0) (#8)
    by AlkalineDave on Tue Sep 22, 2009 at 11:56:33 AM EST
    What coup?  The military returned power to the legislature and the people immediately after removing Zeyala.  If this was a military coup, we'd see a military in charge of the country.

    It was a coup (5.00 / 0) (#10)
    by DancingOpossum on Tue Sep 22, 2009 at 02:08:28 PM EST
    I can understand why the lazy news media here refuses to correctly state that this was a coup, but I don't understand why supposedly more-discerning "consumers" of the news aren't more skeptical.

    Micheletti's coup government immediately instituted curfews, beatdowns of dissenters, imprisonment of journalists, and all the other features of your standard Latin American military dictatorship. In fact it was still going on when Zelaya returned:

    Micheletti repeated his insistence that had never been a coup -- just a "constitutional succession" ordered by the courts and approved by Congress.

    "Coups do not allow freedom of assembly," he wrote in a column published Tuesday in the Washington Post. "They do not guarantee freedom of the press, much less a respect for human rights. In Honduras, these freedoms remain intact and vibrant."

    Meanwhile Micheletti closed airports and borders, and baton-wielding police fired tear gas to chase thousands of demonstrators away from the embassy where Zelaya's supporters had gathered.


    Over at Narco News AL Giordano has been blogging minute-by-minute about Zelaya's return, with more details about the coup government's tactics:

    And for the record, Zelaya's proposed change to the Honduran constitution was neither illegal nor cause for a constitutional crisis, as Micheletti and the Supreme Court maintained. Nor did it in any way guarantee him a longer or "lifetime" term -- it was a referendum about voting, nothing more.

    Your last graf is incorrect (none / 0) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Sep 22, 2009 at 08:20:53 PM EST
    But it was a coup.

    As to Brazil's actions, this seems (none / 0) (#1)
    by scribe on Tue Sep 22, 2009 at 09:40:22 AM EST
    most likely to be a first flex of the muscles by a country which will become a major power in this century.  One needs to remember that Brazil is finding and developing some of the largest oil fields anywhere, and the power that will accrue to Brazil as a result can only grow as world supplies of oil shrink.  One can also not discount Brazil as having old, hard feelings toward the Yankees and their habit over the last couple hundred years of playing with Latin American politics and countries as though it was a giant game of "Risk".

    In this situation, HRC and State can grit their teeth, but that's about it.

    I agree (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Sep 22, 2009 at 09:44:17 AM EST
    I dunno much (none / 0) (#3)
    by Steve M on Tue Sep 22, 2009 at 09:44:26 AM EST
    but I can recommend these two excellent diaries by Charles Lemos for context: The Caudillo Mentality and The Threat of Continuismo.

    My view is that Zelaya was removed in the clumsy way one might expect from a nascent democracy working its way through an unprecedented situation, but that shouldn't be allowed to detract from the legality of his removal pursuant to the Constitution and the Supreme Court's rulings.

    That said, Latin America seems to suffer from a very understandable "coup-phobia" and I get why anything with the trappings of a coup would be disturbing to those who want to keep the region democratic and stable.  On the other hand, there are two considerations that make me somewhat surprised that Lula would be the foreign leader to intercede here.  One is "the Latin American principle of non interference in the internal affairs of other Latin American states" as characterized by Charles.  The other is that Lula is perhaps the most high-profile opponent of continuismo out there, having recently rejected the idea of a term-limits amendment to give himself a third term and having declared, "The alternation of power is important for the construction of democracy."  I would think he wouldn't be a fan of Zelaya's extraconstitutional antics that instigated his removal in the first place.

    Denouncing the coup (none / 0) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Sep 22, 2009 at 09:53:49 AM EST
    and not recognizing the new coup government, cutting off aid, etc., all seem very good and measured responses to the coup. Pushing for restoration of Zelaya also seems good.

    Working with Zelaya and housing him in your embassy in the capital seems too far to me. Brazil, imo, freelanced this, and I wonder how the U.S. really feels about this.


    I dunno (none / 0) (#6)
    by Steve M on Tue Sep 22, 2009 at 10:04:58 AM EST
    At a minimum, Zelaya was removed under color of law.  Would it be reasonable for other countries to cut off aid to the U.S. because they disagreed with the Bush v. Gore decision?  There has to be a reasonable dividing line somewhere between noninterference in other countries' internal affairs and turning a blind eye to actual coups.

    The U.S. line seems to have turned away from opining on the legitimacy of Zelaya's removal towards simply seeking a negotiated resolution that would be broadly acceptable, which strikes me as appropriate.  I agree that this action by Brazil is at cross purposes to what the U.S. is trying to accomplish, but I'm not sure that cutting off aid wouldn't be equally unproductive.


    The Removal (5.00 / 0) (#11)
    by Randinho on Tue Sep 22, 2009 at 07:55:11 PM EST
    The removal of Zelaya from Honduras itself was a violation of Honduran law.

    I call your attention to Article 81 of The Honduran Constitution:

    Toda persona tiene derecho a circular libremente, salir, entrar y permanecer en el territorio nacional.

    For the Castellano impaired:

    Everyone has the right to move freely, leave, enter and stay in the national territory.

    Article 102:

    Ningún hondureño podrá ser expatriado ni entregado por las autoridades a un Estado extranjero.

    For the Castellano impaired:

    No Honduran can be expatriated or handed over by the authorities to a foreign state.

    Accordingly, Zelaya's removal was a violation of Honduran law.

    As for removing him from office, there was no due process, no opportunity to mount a defense, no opportunity to respond to the claims made against him.

    If he was accused of murdering someone in Honduras, he would have been treated more justly.

    Interpol denied a warrant for his arrest.


    Lula is the issue (none / 0) (#9)
    by ricosuave on Tue Sep 22, 2009 at 12:36:13 PM EST
    We (meaning largely the US) have created this phony "axis" that we say includes Chavez and Castro.  Yes...Chavez loves Castro, and he is a nut, and he does have oil.  But he is not a military or even economic threat to the US.  Despite that, our policies (primarily over the last 8 years, but with history longer than that) force these Latin American countries to choose a camp.

    Lula de Silva has avoided being forced into the Chavez/Castro/anti-US camp.  Perhaps because Brazil is too strategically important, and perhaps because they are too economically important, we have not shoved Lula into the Chavez/Castro category--even though he is probably one of the most solidly left-wing leaders on earth.  Left alone by the US (which most left-wing leaders in Latin America are not), he has been largely successful with his policies and has somehow managed to avoid bringing the downfall of western civilization.

    The US has to be very careful not to force Lula into an "us or them" choice that will drive him into the Chavez camp.  So we won't criticize Brazil for hosting Zelaya.  And while I would rather see stronger action in support of democracy by our government, I think they are correctly looking at the larger regional implications of this battle.

    The US has had no real problem with Zelaya.  It would have been awful if he succeeded in bypassing term limits and becoming president for life (I am not generally in favor of term limits, but I am less in favor of the president-for-life system).  But it is worse to have a military coup in Honduras.  The military does not have a good history there in recent decades.